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The job of ‘ethics committees’
  1. Andrew Moore,
  2. Andrew Donnelly
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Moore, Department of Philosophy, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; andrew.moore{at}


What should authorities establish as the job of ethics committees and review boards? Two answers are: (1) review of proposals for consistency with the duly established and applicable code and (2) review of proposals for ethical acceptability. The present paper argues that these two jobs come apart in principle and in practice. On grounds of practicality, publicity and separation of powers, it argues that the relevant authorities do better to establish code-consistency review and not ethics-consistency review. It also rebuts bad code and independence arguments for the opposite view. It then argues that authorities at present variously specify both code-consistency and ethics-consistency jobs, but most are also unclear on this issue. The paper then argues that they should reform the job of review boards and ethics committees, by clearly establishing code-consistency review and disestablishing ethics-consistency review, and through related reform of the basic orientation, focus, name, and expertise profile of these bodies and their actions.

  • Ethics Committees/Consultation
  • Applied and Professional Ethics
  • Codes of/Position Statements on Professional Ethics
  • Policy Guidelines/Inst. Review Boards/Review Cttes.
  • Research Ethics

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