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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Ethical and Philosophical Consideration of the Dual-Use Dilemma in the Biological Sciences (Report: Seumas Miller and Michael Selgelid 2006)0

Posted by Admin in on June 25, 2016


What is the Dual-Use Dilemma?
The so-called “dual-use dilemma” arises in the context of research in the biological and other sciences as a consequence of the fact that one and the same piece of scientific research sometimes has the potential to be used for evil as well as for good.

A dual-use dilemma is an ethical dilemma, and an ethical dilemma for the researcher (and for those who have the power or authority to assist or impede the researcher’s work, eg. governments). It is an ethical dilemma since it is about promoting good in the context of the potential for also causing harm, e.g. the promotion of health in the context of providing the wherewithal for the killing of innocents. It is an ethical dilemma for the researcher not because he or she is aiming at anything other than a good outcome; typically, the researcher intends no harm, but only good. Rather, the dilemma arises for the researcher because of the potential actions of others. Malevolent non-researchers might steal dangerous biological agents produced by the researcher; alternatively, other researchers – or at least their governments or leadership – might use the results of the original researcher’s work for malevolent purposes. The malevolent purposes in question include bio-terrorism, bio-warfare and blackmail for financial gain.

In the aftermath of the 11th September 2001 attacks and the subsequent anthrax letters episode in the US, bio-terrorism is widely considered to be a real threat, especially to populations in western countries. Moreover, it is seen as a more likely threat from non-state terrorist groups than, say, nuclear WMDs, given the availability of the technical knowledge necessary to produce the relevant biological agents and the feasibility of weaponisation. (In this report we assume terrorist acts could be performed by state actors as well as non-state actors. This is consistent with the definition given in the Commonwealth of Australia Criminal Code 1995.)…

Seumas Miller and Michael Selgelid, Ethical and Philosophical Consideration of the Dual-Use Dilemma in the Biological Sciences, (Canberra: Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (An Australian Research Council funded Special Research Centre), Australian National University and Charles Sturt University, 2006)

The Handbook of Randomised Controlled Trials in Education (Books: Alan Slater 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on June 23, 2016

Anyone involved in education over the last ten years cannot help but have noticed that we are fast approaching a situation where we want ‘evidenced-based-everything’, we are expected to produce ‘best practice’, engage in ‘knowledge transfer’, roll-up our sleeves and get dirty ‘building evidence into education’. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are being seen as the best sources of evidence to make our professional lives richer and more rewarding. Randomised Controlled Trials in Education can make a difference, but they cannot do it on their own. So, The Handbook of Randomised Controlled Trials in Education aims to give you insight into randomised controlled trials in education and in doing so it should be able to answer some, but not all, of your questions about such trials and the issues and evidence in and around them.

RCTs cited in The Handbook are addressing real issues such as:

• School-based Prevention and Reduction of Depression in Adolescents.
• Reducing the Likelihood and Impact of Cyber-Bullying.
• Does Reading During the Summer Build Reading Skills?
• Evaluating the Impact of Play-Based Learning on Early Childhood Development.
• Females in Science. An Intervention to Increase the Implementation of a Healthy Canteen Policy.
• Guidance and Information Affecting Decision Making and Demand for Education.
• Incentives to Prevent Excess School Dropout.
• Getting Parents Involved in Their Children’s Education.
• Texting College Students to Help Achieve Their Goals.
• Vouchers to Move Out of High-Poverty Housing.
• Maximizing teachers’ ability to take advantage formative and summative assessments.
• Peer Observation, Teacher Performance and Student Outcomes.
• The Impact of Teacher Training and a New Curriculum.

The Handbook covers areas such as:

1. List of Tables and Figures
2. Introduction
3. What is a Randomised Controlled Trial?
4. Types of Randomised Controlled Trials
5. Advantages of Evidence from Randomised Controlled Trials
6. Limitations of Evidence from Randomised Controlled Trials
7. Examples of Randomised Controlled Trials in Education
8. Hierarchies of The Evidence
9. The Pyramid of Fate: The Fate of Research in Education
10. Questions to Ask Before Getting Involved in Any Randomised Controlled Trial
11. CONSORT and Research Ethics
12. Concluding Thoughts-This is Just the Beginning
Further Reading & References (including right up to date material from 2016)

Slater A (2016) The Handbook of Randomised Controlled Trials in Education. Retrieved from*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Questionable LSD experiments lurk in bioethics icon’s background – STAT (James P. Rathmell June 20160

Posted by Admin in on June 20, 2016

“A scathing indictment of the ethics of medical research, published 50 years ago today, sparked a firestorm of controversy in the medical community and led to an overhaul of the rules of research involving humans. The fact that it was written by a physician who led some iffy experiments with LSD makes the message more nuanced, but no less compelling.

“The report, “Ethics and Clinical Research” — sometimes called Beecher’s bombshell — appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 16, 1966. Its author, Dr. Henry Knowles Beecher, an acclaimed professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School and department chair at Massachusetts General Hospital, accused scientists at some of the nation’s top medical schools, hospitals, and other research institutions of unethical research that could have, and sometimes did, harm research subjects, many of whom had no knowledge they were even part of a study.

“Although he didn’t name names, Beecher described 22 ethically corrupt experiments. In one study, researchers withheld penicillin from more than 500 men with strep throat infections in order to test a less-effective treatment. About 5 percent of them developed strep-related rheumatic fever, which can cause severe heart damage. In another of Beecher’s examples, living cancer cells were injected into 22 participants in a study of cancer immunity. In neither case were the participants informed about the specifics of the study.”

Read the full opinion piece

Médecins Sans Frontières – Research Ethics Framework: Guidance Document0

Posted by Admin in on June 17, 2016


“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the leading humanitarian medical organizations. The
foundational and animating values of MSF as a humanitarian medical organization are rooted in
ethics. It has a well-deserved reputation for its work in responding to humanitarian needs created by a
variety of health emergencies around the world. It is respected as an organization for its leadership
and moral authority in humanitarian affairs.

“Historically, research was not seen as core to the mission of MSF. However, it now initiates, sponsors
or participates in numerous research projects in multiple field sites. The results of MSF research have
had substantial impact on global health policy and provided benefits to populations served by MSF
and elsewhere. MSF has also shown leadership in operational research initiatives in the humanitarian
NGO sector. As a result, research has become increasingly integral to MSF activities, both in the field
and in global health advocacy.

“MSF has paid particular attention to ethical issues related to the research in which they engage. This is
manifested by the creation of an independent ethics review board (ERB) that evaluates all research
proposals involving MSF. This board chose to use an explicit framework to assess the ethical
dimensions of the research1. Since its adoption in 2003, the research ethics framework has served
well, as it has brought greater clarity to the expectations of both the ERB and MSF staff engaged in
research. The quality of the proposals submitted to the board has improved considerably over the
past decade…”

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (2013) Research Ethics Framework: Guidance Document. MSF.