On behalf of the planning committee of the 15th World Congress of Bioethics, we invite you to join us in Philadelphia on June 19-21, 2020 to immerse yourself in three days of cutting-edge bioethics research, networking, and fun!

The conference theme is Autonomy and Solidarity: Bridging the Tensions.  We describe here the ways in which this timely theme weaves together important strands in bioethics and offers a major unifying thread for the conference.  

Reflecting on the boundaries of solidarity and deciding who is deserving of assistance, rights, or respect is critical in bioethics, and has also recently become of increasing political importance, including in the United States of America.  Recognizing these developments, our planning group has a two-fold aim for this Congress. First, as all previous Congresses, we want to showcase the best in bioethics research from both established and new scholars. Second, we want to facilitate networking and the unique exchange of ideas that emerges when people from different disciplines, cultures, mindsets, and methodological approaches engage with one another to genuinely see the other.  Needless to say, this second objective is also one shared by all previous Congresses aiming to foster inter- and transdisciplinary bioethics—but its urgency has perhaps never been greater.  

At every step in planning the Congress, we were clear that solidarity must be reflected throughout the program design.  We highlight just three core elements here. To enable the widest range of participants to join us, we have worked with Penn’s International Student and Scholar Services, which has provided helpful resources, and will assist with challenges in the visa process. Before going live with the conference website, we raised $50,000 for bursaries for participants from low- and middle-income countries and for early career researchers. Through a novel conference support fund, we hope to allow participants who are able to contribute to show solidarity with those who need assistance to attend the conference.  

Please browse the other sections of the website for other ways in which we aim, before and during the Congress, to practice and encourage solidarity—the most important cosmopolitan antidote to isolation and division.  

We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia in June 2020 in one of the country’s most diverse cities, home to one of the oldest and largest “Gayborhoods” in America as well as to vibrant African American, Asian, and Latino communities. The University of Pennsylvania, likewise, is considered extremely diverse in the composition of its students, faculty and staff, embraces interdisciplinary work like few other universities, offers ample green space on its campus, and provides an ideal setting for the 2020 World Congress.   

On behalf of the 2020 planning group, we look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia!


Jonathan Moreno, Co-Chair

Harald Schmidt, Co-Chair


World Congress of Bioethics (WCB)

The International Association of Bioethics (IAB) awarded the 15th World Congress of Bioethics (WCB) to the University of Pennsylvania, taking place June 19-21, 2020. The WCB aims to be truly international, linking all those working in bioethics and related fields, facilitating mutual contact, and encouraging the discussion of cross-cultural aspects in bioethics. Past Congresses have been held in Bangalore (2018), Edinburgh (2016), Mexico City (2014), Rotterdam (2012), Singapore (2010), Croatia (2008), China (2006), Australia (2004), Brazil (2002), the United Kingdom (2000), Japan (1998), the United States of America (1996), Argentina (1994), and Amsterdam (1992).


International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB)

The International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB) is a network of activists and scholars working in the field of feminist bioethics and is affiliated with the International Association of Bioethics (IAB). The FAB is the IAB’s largest sub-network. The FAB pre-conference convenes a 2 day meeting immediately prior to the WCB, June 17-18, 2020. The final event of FAB 2020 will be a plenary session run jointly with IAB 2020.


WCB 2020 Planning Committee
University of Pennsylvania Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Ezekiel Emanuel
Vice Provost for Global Initiatives


Chris Feudtner
Affiliated Faculty


Steve Joffe
Interim Chair, Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy


Jonathan D. Moreno
Primary Faculty, WCB Co-Chair


Harald Schmidt
Primary Faculty, WCB Co-Chair


Pamela Sankar
Primary Faculty


Connie Ulrich 
Affiliated Faculty

Medical Ethics and Health Policy Staff

Amy Ashbridge
Director of Fiscal Operations


Angela Golub
Executive assistant to Zeke Emanuel


Mary Pham
Administrative Coordinator


Emily Walters
Assistant to Steven Joffe, M.D., MPH

WCB 2020 International Advisory Committee

Pamela Andanda, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sunita Bandewar, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, and FMES’ Health, Ethics, and Law Institute, India
Mohamed Salah Ben Ammar, Health of Tunisia, Tunisia
Alena Buyx, Technical University Munich, Germany
Alex Capron, University of Southern California, United States of America
Sarah Chan, Mason Institute, Scotland
Dafna Feinholz, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
Samia Hurst-Majno, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Florencia Luna, FLACSO Argentina, Argentina
John McMillan, University of Otago, New Zealand
Signe Mezinska, University of Latvia, Latvia
Laura Palazzani, Lumsa University, Italy
Vardit Ravitzky, University of Montreal, Canada
Annette Rid, National Institutes of Health, United States of America
Andreas Reis, World Health Organization, Switzerland
Carla Saenz,
Pan American Health Organization, United States of America
Delia M. Sánchez Varela, University of the Republic, Uruguay
Michael Selgelid, Monash University, Australia
Nayha Sethi, Mason Institute, Scotland
Daniel Strech, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany
Anta Tal-Dia, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal
Henk ten Have, Duquesne University, Netherlands
Renzong Qiu, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Calvin Wai-Loon Ho, National University of Singapore, Singapore 

Frequently Asked Questions

I have already registered: what happens to my registration fee?

We expect the registration fee for the virtual format to be considerably lower.  As soon as we have determined these fees we will be in touch.


I have made a donation to the colleague support fund?

Thank you for your support!  Donations to the colleague support are still welcome.  As before, they help to a) discount fees for colleagues from low- and middle-income countries, which is still needed in the virtual format, and b) to assist with bursaries.  On the latter, while bursary applicants no longer incur cost associated with attending in-person, we will use funds to cover the registration fees for all (as opposed to just some) bursary applicants. Note that any possible surplus will not be kept by Penn but be passed on to the IAB for future WCBs.


I have not yet registered: should I register now?

Online registration is temporarily closed. We will notify the conference mailing list of the new fee structure once pricing is finalized.


The website says that the early bird ends March 30: should I still register?

Registration is currently closed and will reopen when the new structuring and pricing is announced. Email contact@iab2020.org to join the mailing list. 


How much will the virtual conference cost?

This is not clear at  this time, but we hope to provide pricing at a deeper discount than the in-person conference rates to encourage participation throughout the global bioethics community.  Please look for updates from the conference mailing list.


I have received a bursary: what happens now?

The planning committee will be providing new guidance to bursary recipients and will work to reimburse travel expenses already endured that cannot be cancelled or refunded. Proper documentation and receipts are required for WCB to issue a reimbursement. Please email contact@iab2020.org if you have specific questions.


I asked that my abstract would be considered for a prize: does the new format change anything?

All prizes will be awarded as planned. There will not be a live in-person ceremony, but we are actively planning on alternatives.


Online video conferencing can be problematic, and connection can vary – how are you planning to negate this? .

We all have shared in this pain at one point or another. However, there are several ways in which we can work around commonly encountered frustrating experiences.  The responses are in roughly equal parts to do with the choice of technology, adequate programming and support, and being clear about capabilities and expectations. We are working to provide the best experience possible based on the circumstances we are all now facing.


Will the dates be the same?  And how are you hoping to convene a meeting when everyone is in a different time zone?

The overall timing in terms of dates will remain unchanged. In terms of fully live interactions, it will not be possible to bring everyone together for 8 hours each day: that window will be much smaller.  We will set that timeframe by looking at what works best for most people, given their time zones. In addition, the virtual formats we are thinking about also includes options for non-live interactions, and we will share more about these options as soon as we can.


One of the best things about attending a conference is networking and meeting new contacts— What plans are in place for the virtual setting?

Indeed, a virtual meeting will differ. But we are carefully mapping the different types of features that contribute to an exciting conference experience to see to what extend we can mimic these interactions as much as possible.   Please share your feedback with us by completing our brief survey so we can gear the platform to meet your desired needs. Click here to submit the survey.


Why don’t you just delay the Congress?

Delaying is severely complicated by, among other things, limited space availability on campus during term time, the need to avoid clashes with other already scheduled major bioethics conferences, and the fact that the spread of the disease, including the possibility of a second wave of infections, is still poorly understood.