Science meets non-scientific expertise – with this transdisciplinary approach, the major Berlin universities and Charité have created an innovative new format.

The first Pre-Research Forum addressed the societal, scientific and ethical challenges of digitization in the context of health. In particular, the initiators of the project were occupied with the ethical fields resulting from new products and processes – these are for the most part not new, but must be re-discussed and negotiated in the context of digitization. Especially in the health sector, there is a need for a public discussion about the willingness to enter new medical and ethical territory.

The Pre-Research Forum was a joint event of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. The Forum is coordinated by Technische Universität Berlin under the leadership of Professor Dr.-Ing. Christine Ahrend, Vice President for Research, Appointment Strategy, Knowledge & Technology Transfer.

The research project’s first major event marked the start of a working process scheduled to last several months. The ideas which emerged during the Forum are being evaluated by the project team in terms of their potential for future scientific debate and, in particular, future cooperation plans. The long-term goal is to develop new research topics within the context of this interdisciplinary format, resulting in highly innovative and interdisciplinary projects.


Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.


Science meets Society. Politics. Culture. Economics: This transdisciplinary approach emphasizes the social relevance of research, enables a change of perspective and the abandonment of the transfer formats typical of each discipline. Actors were offered the opportunity to discuss current research results directly with scientists from their fields of work, to make them usable for their areas and to actively put research impulses from practice into science.


Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak
“Science meets…” was the main idea of the first pre-research forum organized by the three major Berlin universities and Charité Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak


Within the framework of the event and for the first time ever, an interactive identification of the topics and use cases was executed with a total of 16 scientists from FU Berlin, HU Berlin, TU Berlin and Charité. The following use cases were selected from the identified research interests and research intersections:

Use Case 1: Automated Diagnostics in Cardiac Imaging I Prof. Dr. med. Marc Dewey, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Use Case 2: Data Tracking in Hospitals for Process Optimization to Improve the Treatment of Illnesses I Prof. Dr. med. Matthias Weidlich, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Use Case 3: Cooperative Robotics Systems as Assistants for Older People in Their Home Environment I Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Rötting, Technische Universität Berlin

Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.

The central statements from the contributers at a glance:


Non-invasive automated diagnostics (Use Case 1 by Prof. Dr. Marc Dewey):

“Computer tomography (CT) diagnostics in the area of ​​cardiac imaging make it possible to diagnose more carefully and correctly, are less expensive, faster and less risky than the alternative use of a cardiac catheter. Therefore, it should be further developed and widely used in the future. The numerous advantages of automated CT analysis outweigh the risks in a potential future use. The responsible handling of data is feasible and the residual risk is socially acceptable within the context of the overall benefit. In addition, this must not only take into account the effects on fast and consistent patient treatment, but also those on employees.”


Amongst other things, there is a need to discuss and research the following points:


  • How to reduce privacy risks and other barriers that inhibit the medical-social benefits of automated heart CT
  • Clarification is needed on who is responsible for decisions in radiology in particular and in diagnostics in general that are based on Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • AI will dramatically change the clinical decision-making process, creating new challenges in human-AI interaction that need to be further described and explored.
  • How to deal responsibly with potential adverse effects on patients arising from treatment outcomes through AI-influenced / controlled processes / processes in automated cardiac imaging


Data Tracking in Hospitals for Process Optimization to Improve the Treatment of Illnesses (Use Case 2 by Prof. Dr. Matthias Weidlich):

“Data tracking in hospitals is desirable. In addition to the economic benefits and a better use of resources, patient and employee satisfaction can be significantly increased: The waiting time and the duration of treatment can be shortened and made transparent for patients. There is no need for nursing staff and physicians to search for the right person. Staff schedules can be adhered to and medical devices can be better utilized. The basic tracking technique may provide a chance to more effectively combat the MRSA pathogen and other infections by tracing the infection pathways. ”


Amongst other things, there is a need to discuss and research the following points:

  • How to create acceptance among patients and staff
  • Which measures can prevent data misuse, for example to measure the productivity of employees (optimization is currently negatively connoted in the context)
  • The trade-offs between data collection and analysis benefits, and who is responsible


Robotics (Use Case 3 by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Rötting):

“If affected persons give informed consent (considerably early before the possible deployment of the systems), robotic systems can promote the independence of older people. The conflict between the promotion of self-determination and the heteronomy of the individual through the machine must be discussed in a broad social debate, so that people can make an ethical decision for themselves. In doing so, digital skills as well as the question of the added value of the use of robotics in nursing beyond cost reduction play a key role. ”


Amongst other things, there is a need to discuss and research the following points:

  • How patient safety and data security can be guaranteed
  • What ethical requirements can be formulated to protect the privacy and physical integrity of those in need of care
  • How the acceptance of technology and trust in the technology can be attained
  • To what extent artificial systems can and should be assigned responsibility in the future


Based on the three use cases from research, ethical questions were discussed during the one and a half day event in transdisciplinary working groups, areas of tension were identified and further impulses for new research questions were developed.

With the research project, the major Berlin universities and Charité aim to examine important topics together with society. The Berlin universities and the city of Berlin offer the ideal potential for doing so.

Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak
Participants of the first Pre-Research-Forum on 25.10.2018 Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak



The opportunity for intensive professional and personal exchange during the six workshops made it possible for the approximately 50 representatives from science, industry, politics, culture and society to work out the challenges of digitization in the health sector. The following ethical challenges were identified as particularly relevant:

  • Trust & Acceptance: How do people experience new technologies? How can better information be provided?
  • Data Collection & Privacy: Which models of data trusteeship are safe and reliable? How do I create transparency and at the same time data security (guaranteeing anonymization while maintaining informative power)?
  • Technology & Law: How can the right to self-determination – such as dealing with denial and the right to not know certain illnesses – be preserved? What legal framework is required for the use of robots in a home environment? How can existing technology like mobile devices be used for so-called “clinical decision support”?

Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.


The working groups developed joint positions on their respective cases, which will be used to develop research needs in further workshops in 2019.

Immediately after the forum, an on-site evaluation was conducted on the following topics: subject, content & organization of the event; moderation; venue; personal knowledge & criticism.

The results of the project evaluation not only confirm the great interest, but also the need to tackle and solve socio-political questions and processes in a transdisciplinary way. Thus, about 96% of the participants are interested in future transdisciplinary cooperation.

Some other results:


Research Forum 2018 – Denny Chakkalakal (HU Berlin) from Research Forum on Vimeo.


Statements of participants

“I especially liked…”

… the venue

… the transdisciplinary goal & format

… the interesting format

… the depth of debate

… the variety of participants

…that the classification of the use cases and the involvement of the use-case-giver in the group worked very well

Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.


“I’m particularly interested in the following topics & questions …”

… advancing social discourse & a global perspective

… incorporation of innovations into standard supply

… further use cases

… Robotics in Care & Health

… digitalization from the perspective of doctors

… frameworks for ethical consideration

… governance aspects of AI use, ethical – not just medical-ethical – aspects such as democratic, legal-philosophical, scientific-theoretical

… integration of new data sources (genomics, proteonics) into everyday medical practice

Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.


“Important insight I took from the event …”

… exchange with colleagues […] improves the understanding of processes

and problems

… interdisciplinary collaborative structures are essential for research

… transdisciplinary communication needs to be further developed

… transdisciplinary work helps

… different perspectives

… overview of the complexity of use cases and methods of use case assessment

… there is something to do

Research Forum 2018 from Research Forum on Vimeo.


“The new findings help me …”

… to think & learn transdisciplinarily

… to network with important players

… to better understand the subject of digitization & ethics

… to plan new projects and develop my work

… to investigate the research problem on a broader basis.



Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak
Participants of a workshop of the Pre-Research-Forum on 26.10.2018 Image credit: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak


Participating institutions:

Aetene KOM
Alexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG)
Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie, Gesundheitswirtschaft | Industrie | Inf-rastruktur
Berliner Medizinjournalisten
Bitkom e. V.
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit
Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e. V. (BDI)
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Comma Soft
Digitale Gesellschaft e. V.
Einstein Center Digital Future
Freie Universität Berlin
Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss Berlin
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V.
SAP SE, Government Relations I Public und Healthcare
Selko e. V.
Senatsverwaltung für Gesundheit, Pflege und Gleichstellung Berlin
Stiftung Neue Verantwortung
Technische Universität Berlin
Techniker-Krankenkasse Berlin / Brandenburg
VDE Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik
VDI Technologiezentrum
Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband Gesundheit und Pflege e. V.
Zentrum für Qualität in der Pflege


Image source: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak
Participants of a workshop of the Pre-Research-Forum on 26.10.2018 Image source: © TU Berlin / Felix Noak

More event pictures from the Pre-Research-Forum can be found in the Gallery.