Bioethics Blogs

NRC Report: Where’s the Freedom?

My biggest disappointment with the new NRC report is its silence on the question of academic and personal freedom.

Social scientists have warned of the dangers to freedom of ethics regulation since at least 1967, when political scientist Alfred de Grazia explained,

It is easy to foresee that the federal government may both promote a number of intrusions upon privacy and liberty in this regard and also impose onerous restrictions of all types on the use of research funds, in the name of defending liberty. This is a formidable bureaucratic problem that may be inevitable and permanent. The long chain of command and line of communications from the subject through the research organization through all the agencies of government including the police and justice agents may end up in a depressing tangle in which neither individual right nor free research is helped.

[U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Operations, Research and Technical Programs Subcommittee, The Use of Social Research in Federal Domestic Programs: Part III—The Relation of Private Social Scientists to Federal Programs on National Social Problems (90th Cong., 1st. sess., 1967), 75.]

For nearly half a century, scholars have expressed similar concerns, right up to March 2013, when the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) published a report which I helped draft, a successor to earlier reports published in 1981 and 2006.

Canada has shown that the freedom of inquiry can be woven into a human subjects research policy, finding that

In order to maximize the benefits of research, researchers must have academic freedom.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.