University of Cambridge > > PLACEB-O 'In Conversation' Seminar Series > The flock and the citizen - permissiveness and vulnerability in international biological research collaboration

The flock and the citizen - permissiveness and vulnerability in international biological research collaboration

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The Mond Seminar Room is in the Mond Building, New Museums Site

Biological and biomedical research have become global undertakings. They increasingly involve cross-national collaborations where scientists, scientific equipment, biological materials, therapies, and/or information databases are exchanged across continents and countries. Biological samples can be procured in one place only to be cultured, stored, manipulated and/or biochemically/genetically analysed in another. Related information databases can be electronically transported instantaneously across the globe. Biomedical treatments (whether pharmaceutical or cell-based) can be developed in one place and then transferred to another country or region for clinical testing.

It has been common to analyse these developments in terms of, on the one hand, a kind of competitiveness of nations where mechanisms of capital investment, economic incentives and so-called ‘permissive’ regulatory contexts are used to encourage biotechnological/biomedical developments. On the other hand, the vulnerability of human research subjects, especially (though not only) in resource-poor countries, is highlighted as leaving many open to inducement and exploitation by multinational biotech, pharmaceutical companies and/or university scientists. In this paper, I will examine how an ongoing institutionalisation of the field of bioethics at global and national levels contributes to the stabilising of the notions of ‘permissiveness’ and ‘vulnerability’. In particular, I will suggest that institutionalised bioethics interpellates both the flock (a public in need of protection from the ‘slippery slope’ that the life sciences are seen to be balancing on) and the citizen (an individual with rights that need to be protected in the face of an exploitative bioscience/bioeconomy).

This talk is part of the PLACEB-O 'In Conversation' Seminar Series series.

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