Journal of Academic Ethics:1-19 (forthcoming)

A growing body of literature critical of ethics review boards has drawn attention to the processes used to determine the ethical merit of research. Citing criticism on the bureaucratic nature of ethics review processes, this literature provides a useful provocation for considering how the ethics review might be enacted. Much of this criticism focuses on how ethics review boards deliberate, with particular attention given to the lack of transparency and opportunities for researcher recourse that characterise ethics review processes. Centered specifically on the conduct of ethics review boards convened within university settings, this paper draws on these inherent criticisms to consider the ways that ethics review boards might enact more communicative and deliberative practices. Outlining a set of principles against which ethics review boards might establish strategies for engaging with researchers and research communities, this paper draws attention to how Deliberative communication, Engagement with researchers and the Distribution of responsibility for the ethics review might be enacted in the day-to-day practice of the university human ethics review board. This paper develops these themes via a conceptual lens derived from Habermas’ articulation of ‘communicative action’ and Fraser’s, 56–80, 1990) consideration of ‘strong publics’ to cast consideration of the role that human ethics review boards might play in supporting university research cultures. Deliberative communication, Engagement with researchers and the Distribution of responsibility provide useful conceptual prompts for considering how ethics review boards might undertake their work.
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DOI 10.1007/s10805-021-09430-4
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