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Allocation of scarce biospecimens for use in research

Abstract

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.

  • allocation of health care resources
  • donation/procurement of organs/tissues
  • ethics
  • research ethics
  • resource allocation

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