Fair Resource Allocation to Health Research: Priority Topics for Bioethics Scholarship

Bioethics 31 (4):454-466 (2017)
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Abstract

This article draws attention to the limited amount of scholarship on what constitutes fairness and equity in resource allocation to health research by individual funders. It identifies three key decisions of ethical significance about resource allocation that research funders make regularly and calls for prioritizing scholarship on those topics – namely, how health resources should be fairly apportioned amongst public health and health care delivery versus health research, how health research resources should be fairly allocated between health problems experienced domestically versus other health problems typically experienced by disadvantaged populations outside the funder's country, and how domestic and non-domestic health research funding should be further apportioned to different areas, e.g. types of research and recipients. These three topics should be priorities for bioethics research because their outcomes have a substantial bearing on the achievement of health justice. The proposed agenda aims to move discussion on the ethics of health research funding beyond its current focus on the mismatch between worldwide basic and clinical research investment and the global burden of disease. Individual funders’ decision-making on whether and to what extent to allocate resources to non-domestic health research, health systems research, research on the social determinants of health, capacity development, and recipients in certain countries should also be the focus of ethical scrutiny.

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