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This is a Berkman Klein alum page. The information below may be out of date.

Effy Vayena, Ph.D., studied Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota (USA) and completed her habilitation in Bioethics and Health Policy at the University of Zurich. From 2000-2007 she worked at the World Health Organization (WHO). 

In 2007, she joined the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine at the University of Zurich. She is a consultant to WHO on several projects, and visiting faculty at the Harvard Center for Bioethics, Harvard Medical School. In 2015 she was named a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Professor of Health Policy. Since 2017 she is Professor of Bioethics at ETH Zurich. She is the founder of the Health Ethics and Policy Lab in the Department of Health Sciences and Technology at ETH Zurich.

Her current research focus is on ethical and policy questions in precision medicine and digital health. At the intersection of multiple fields, she relies on normative analyses and empirical methods to explore how values such as freedom of choice, participation and privacy are affected by recent developments in personalized medicine and in digital health. She is particularly interested in the issues of ethical oversight of research uses of big data, ethical uses of big data and AI for global health, as well as the ethics of citizen science. Using the ethics lens in innovative ways, her work aims to provide concrete policy recommendations and frameworks that facilitate the use of new technologies for a better and more just health. Most recently she chaired the WHO Expert Ethics Group that developed guidance for ethical consideration in digital proximity tracking technologies for COVID19 contact tracing. 


Aug 3, 2018

A Harm-Reduction Framework for Algorithmic Fairness

Any evaluation of algorithmic fairness must consider a counterfactual analysis of the effects that algorithmic design, implementation, and use have on the well-being of…

Mar 31, 2016

Elements of a New Ethical Framework for Big Data Research

The Berkman Center is pleased to announce the publication of a new paper from the Privacy Tools for Sharing Research Data project team. In this paper, Effy Vayena, Urs Gasser,…

Jan 12, 2016

Between Openness and Privacy in Genomics

In this report, which was published in PLOS Medicine, the authors examine the questions around access to genomic data. They argue that the real breakthrough in reconciling privacy…


Jul 1, 2020

Digital tools against COVID-19

Taxonomy, ethical challenges, and navigation aid

The Lancet Digital Health has published a paper from BKC Executive Director Urs Gasser and colleagues from ETH Zurich’s Health Ethics & Policy Lab. Combining health…

Harvard Law Today
Jan 29, 2019

Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics

Faculty Books in Brief

"We are in the early stages of the health care system’s encounter with big data, the editors write, with the benefits and perils uncertain."


Journal of Medical Internet Research

Revolutionizing Medical Data Sharing Using Advanced Privacy-Enhancing Technologies: Technical, Legal, and Ethical Synthesis

Effy Vayena and colleagues publish in Journal of Medical Internet Research

Feb 26, 2021

Debating Ethics & Privacy

BKC shares insights on privacy with governments at the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners

Oct 26, 2018


May 6, 2016 @ 8:00 AM

Big Data, Health Law, and Bioethics

The Berkman Center is pleased to be collaborating with the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School on their 2016 annual…