Special Ethics Seminar: Professor Loane Skene, "The Ethics of Undertaking Research in Other Countries"

Past Event

14 May 2008, 6:30pm

St Cross College
61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ

There are many reasons for scientists to undertake research with colleagues in other countries: to share knowledge and experience with colleagues; to obtain funding directed to transnational projects; to gain access to facilities and research participants; to acquire kudos, academic advancement, or commercial benefits; or to undertake activities that would not be permitted in their own country, due to legal or ethical constraints.

This paper considers the last reason and when it is ethical for scientists to do research abroad that is banned at home. The author argues that such research may sometimes be ethical, provided it is scientifically rigorous and accords with international ethical principles and ethical oversight requirements. However, it is not ethical when the proposed research is widely regarded as unethical in the home country. The author uses her own image of Skene's Ethico-Legal Barometer to gauge the activities that attract this degree of sensitivity and would be unethical wherever they are done. This research is in the red zone of the barometer and the closer an activity falls to the red zone, the greater the need for ethical review and oversight before being ethically acceptable in the home country.

The author illustrates these arguments with examples such as human embryonic stem cell research, somatic cell nuclear transfer and research involving human subjects.