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Yashar Saghai

Research Scholar & Associate Faculty

Yashar Saghai, MA, PhD, is currently a research scholar and associate faculty at Berman. He is a member of the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program.

His research in practical ethics and political/social philosophy focuses on health, food and agriculture, foresight/futures studies, and behavioral economics.

In May 2016, Dr. Saghai became the principal investigator on a three-year project funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. “Ethics, Politics, Knowledge, and Our Planet’s Food Futures” is a project that critically examines “foresight” studies that apply scientific rigor, artful skill, and practical imagination to anticipate or forecast possible futures of food systems that are relevant to present-day choices. These studies inform governments’ and international organizations’ long-term food and agricultural policies, the design of market rules, private investment in agricultural R&D and large-scale land acquisitions, and food activists’ challenges to the global food system, to name a few. The project’s goal is to identify and address knowledge-related, ethical, and political issues in studies and institutional practices dedicated to anticipating the futures of food systems.

Alongside this project, Dr. Saghai explores more general philosophical issues in foresight studies and their applications in food and health contexts.

Dr. Saghai’s current work builds on a research program he developed at Berman since 2013 and on his training in philosophy and bioethics. From January 2013 to December 2015, he served as the Director of the Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics Project, along with co-principal investigators, Drs. Ruth Faden, Alan Goldberg, and Bob Thompson. This project gathered an interdisciplinary group of 23 international experts to elaborate an innovative research and policy agenda for global food ethics that would make a significant practical contribution to global food security. The main products of the project are the 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security (May 2015), which outlines seven projects to make progress on ethics and global food security in five years, and four scholarly articles published by Global Food Eethics Project members, including a piece on farmland access ethics and land reform that Dr. Saghai co-authored with Dr. Michael Lipton, a UK economist.

Since January 2016, Dr. Saghai has been working with the GFEPP team, in particular Dr. Jessica Fanzo, the Program Director, to bring about some of these projects and to build a permanent program in global food ethics and policy at Berman which would create University-wide synergies and international collaborations. In May 2016, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation secured the future of GFEPP by awarding its team a $3.2 million grant.

Dr. Saghai takes part in various projects developed as part of GFEPP, which include “Planetary Boundaries of Global Animal Food Production and Consumption: Decision-Making Tools for Social Change in Diverse Food Systems,” “Consumers, Certifications and Labels: Ethically Benchmarking Food Systems,” and “Climate-Smart and Climate-Just Agriculture.” Beyond food ethics, his scholarship extends to public health ethics, reproductive ethics, research ethics, and the policy implications of behavioral economics.

Dr. Saghai completed a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Georgetown University under the guidance of Drs. Maggie Little and Madison Powers, with a dissertation entitled, “The Ethics of Public Health Nudges,” discussing the ethical implications of public health policies based on insights from behavioral economics.

Prior to moving to the US, Dr. Saghai received two graduate degrees in History of Philosophy from the University of Paris-Sorbonne and worked on Spinoza. After being awarded a graduate degree in Medical Ethics from the University of Paris-XII-Créteil (Henri Mondor Medical School), he taught philosophy and bioethics in a variety of French institutions, including nursing schools.

Selected Publications
Saghai, Y. Forthcoming. “Theorizing justice in health research contexts.” In Beyond Consent: Seeking Justice in Research, edited by J. Kahn, A. Mastroianni, and J. Sugarman. Second edition, Oxford University Press: New York, NY.

Lipton, Michael, and Y. Saghai. 2016. “Farmland-access ethics, land reform, and food ethics.” Global Food Security. Published Online First (May 4, 2016).

Aloosh, M, and Y. Saghai. 2016. “Birth control policies in Iran: A public health and ethics perspective.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 70: 529–533. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-205572.

Global Food Ethics Project. May 2015. 7 by 5 Agenda for Ethics and Global Food Security: 7 Projects to Make Progress on Ethics and Global Food Security in 5 Years. Project Report. Johns Hopkins University: Baltimore, MD.

Whicher, D., N. Kass, Y. Saghai, R. Faden, S. Tunis, and P. Pronovost. 2015.
The views of quality improvement professionals and comparative effectiveness researchers on ethics, IRBs, and oversight.” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. Online February 23, 2015. DOI:10.1177/1556264615571558.

Saghai, Y. 2014. “Radically questioning the principle of the least restrictive alternative:
A reply to Nir Eyal.” International Journal of Health Policy and Management 3(6): 349-350. Doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2014.106.

Saghai, Y. 2013. “The concept of nudge and its moral significance: A reply to Ashcroft, Bovens, Dworkin, Welch, and Wertheimer.” Journal of Medical Ethics 39(8): 499-501. Doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-101112.

Saghai, Y. 2013. “Salvaging the concept of nudge.” Journal of Medical Ethics 39(8):  487-493. Doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100727.

Powers, M., R. Faden, and Y. Saghai. 2012. “Liberty, Mill, and the framework of public health ethics.” Public Health Ethics 5 (1): 6-15. DOI:10.1093/phe/phs002.

Beauchamp, T., and Y. Saghai. 2012. “The historical foundations of the research-practice  distinction in bioethics.” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 33 (1): 45–56. DOI 10.1007/s11017-011-9207-8.