Allocation of scarce biospecimens for use in research

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (11):740-743 (2021)
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Hundreds of millions of rare biospecimens are stored in laboratories and biobanks around the world. Often, the researchers who possess these specimens do not plan to use them, while other researchers limit the scope of their work because they cannot acquire biospecimens that meet their needs. This situation raises an important and underexplored question: how should scientists allocate biospecimens that they do not intend to use? We argue that allocators should aim to maximise the social value of the research enterprise when allocating scarce biospecimens. We provide an ethical framework for assessing the social value of proposed research projects and describe how the framework could be implemented.

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Author Profiles

Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews
Sophie Gibert
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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