Welcome to CENTRESblog

Welcome to CENTRESblog, the new blog of the Clinical Ethics Network + Research Ethics Support (CENTRES).  This blog will serve as a platform for brief discussions of topics in clinical and research ethics, especially those that will be of relevance to our IRB & CEC network members here in Singapore.  We aim for at least one new substantive post each week, plus periodic posts relating to CENTRES events – conferences, workshops, etc.  See here for our comments policy.

A bit about me – my name is Owen Schaefer, and I’m currently a Research Fellow with CENTRES.  My background is in philosophy, and my graduate studies focused on topics in applied ethics.  Research ethics, in particular, has been a central interest, along with various other topics in bioethics more broadly.  I’m the administrator for this blog, and will be contributing most of its content at least to start.  For any queries, you can contact me at medgos [at symbol] nus [dot] edu [dot] sg .

Our first post will concern coming regulatory changes to the governance of clinical trials.  Indeed, this is a time of significant change in ethics governace in Singapore – the new Human Biomedical Research Act as well as the National Ethics Capability Committee’s competency frameworks for clinical, research and transplant ethics will be a large focus of CENTRES’s efforts in the near future.  But we should be careful not to focus too much on the strict letter of the law or the wording of guidelines.  A large part of responsible ethics oversight requires individual assessment and judgment based on the particular facts and nuances of a case and the relevant ethical principles.  Ethical discussion and analysis is thus central to the work of Institutional Review Boards, CECs, researchers, clinicians, and other practitioners.

The purpose of this blog is, in part, to contribute to such discussions and offer analysis on topics of relevance to practitioners.  Ethics debates can, to be sure, sometimes be frustrating – it has been recently, and notoriously, suggested by Steven Pinker that bioethicists should ‘get out of the way’ of medical and scientific progress.  Others have fairly responded to his claims; here, I’ll just point out that bioethics – like any normative discipline – has the potential to both overreact and underreact.  On this blog, we will try to maintain a balance between those two poles, and encourage attention to multiple sides of any given issue.


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