Citizens today are increasingly expected to be knowledgeable about and prepared to engage with biomedical knowledge. In this article, I wish to reframe this ‘public understanding of science’ project, and place fresh emphasis on public understandings of research: an engagement with the everyday laboratory practices of biomedicine and its associated ethics, rather than with specific scientific facts. This is not based on an assumption that non-scientists are ‘ignorant’ and are thus unable to ‘appropriately’ use or debate science; rather, it is underpinned by an empirically-grounded observation that some individuals may be unfamiliar with certain specificities of particular modes of research and ethical frameworks, and, as a consequence, have their autonomy compromised when invited to participate in biomedical investigations. Drawing on the perspectives of participants in my own sociological research on the social and ethical dimensions of neuroscience, I argue that public understanding of biomedical research and its ethics should be developed both at the community level and within the research moment itself in order to enhance autonomy and promote more socially robust science. Public bioethics will have to play a key role in such an endeavour, and indeed will contribute in important ways to the opening up of new spaces of symmetrical engagement between bioethicists, scientists and wider publics—and hence to the democratisation of the bioethical enterprise.
- public bioethics
- public engagement
- public understanding of science
- research ethics
- informed consent
- social aspects
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Funding Economic and Social Research Council Polaris House North Star Avenue Swindon SN2 1UJ. Other Funders: Wellcome Trust.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the University of Edinburgh.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Read the full text or download the PDF:
Other content recommended for you
- Developing a new model for patient recruitment in mental health services: a cohort study using Electronic Health Records
- Phase I oncology trials: why the therapeutic misconception will not go away
- A pilot study to examine research subjects' perception of participating in research in the emergency department
- Therapeutic appropriation: a new concept in the ethics of clinical research
- Should patients be allowed to veto their participation in clinical research?
- Payment for participation in research: a pursuit for the poor?
- Highlights from this issue
- Children’s views on research without prior consent in emergency situations: a UK qualitative study
- On the personal utility of Alzheimer’s disease-related biomarker testing in the research context
- Non-completion and informed consent