Ethics & Engagement across the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes

I was thinking whether virtue ethics, and in particular the concept of the good researcher could, somehow, be incorporated in the Declaration. 

I put my thoughts in the document attached. Perhaps such a concept could not work in the context of a Declaration, or perhaps it could. I'd like to hear what people think.

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Hi Angeliki,

Thanks for starting this discussion. I think the question of to what extent considerations relating to the virtues of the researcher or the virtues at the heart of good scientific practice - in relation to the Declaration of Helsinki - is a really interesting one. I feel very strongly that thinking about virtues and the idea of the good scientist is a really important aspect of research ethics. I guess my only worry about this in the context of Helsinki is how it could be enshrined in principles. Would this be a principle along the lines that all scientists should be trained in ethics and should have access to on-going professional development training throughout their careers? My guess is that it would have to be something along these lines, combined with the argument that researchers should have ready, easy access to ethics support and advice as they make difficult ethical decisions. I think that something along these lines would be a good idea.


Hi Mike,

I think you're right in saying that the concept of the virtuous researcher could not work in the Declaration unless it could somehow be translated into principles.

I like your suggestion about forming a principle regarding continuous ethics education and easy access to ethics support and advice. One could say that education and ethics support would promote moral craftmanship and practical wisdom in the context of biomedical research.

Another thing that relates to the concept of the good research is a biomedical research Code of Conduct. The DoH states in article 2 that it is addressed, primarily, to physicians, and other professionals are only encouraged to follow these principles. Then in article 20 says that physicians should not participate in research that endangers the lives of human subjects. Which means, I suppose, that since other researchers are not bind by the same Code of Conduct, this does not apply to them. We could suggest then that these principles should be directed to all biomedical researchers (or that a different Code of Conduct should be written for all biomedical researchers -physicians and non-physicians).


I think that's right. In some ways it relates to the point that is often made - by people from Aristotle down to Onora o'Neill, that all principles require interpretation in practice and that such interpretations requires something like practical wisdom (which can only really be developed through practice, experience, education etc. Maybe we could say something along these lines too.... Not sure. We should probably invite Mark to be a member of this group..


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