Trust in the system

Research Ethics Committees and the regulation of biomedical research

By Adam Hedgecoe

Trust in the system


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5290-9
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: December 2020
  • BIC Category: Sociology, SCIENCE / Research & Methodology, SCIENCE / Ethics, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, Medical Research, Medical Sociology, Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology, Impact Of Science & Technology On Society
  • Series: Inscriptions


Based on extensive observations, interviews, and archival research, this book provides an in-depth insight into one of the most crucial forms of regulation around medical research: Research Ethics Committees.

Every month, groups of people from all over the United Kingdom decide what kind of research should be carried out on patients within the National Health Service. These groups - Research Ethics Committees (RECs) - made up of doctors, nurses, researchers, and members of the general public - help shape the future of medicine, and play a crucial role in the regulation of a wide range of research from social science to epidemiology, vaccine and drugs trials, and surgery. In providing one of the first empirical examinations of this kind of regulation, this book highlights how, despite the trappings of a modern regulatory system, REC decision making revolves around outdated aspects of social life. Hedgecoe argues that an accurate understanding of this kind of regulation requires an acceptance of the inherently social nature of the processes involved.

In placing trust at the centre of ethics decision making, this book challenges the impersonal, de-socialised, and mechanical models of REC decision making that dominate mainstream accounts, and documents the subtle, messy, and complex way in which these bodies decide what kind of research should take place.


Introduction - On the margins of a trusting system
1 Paper promises or written applications as trust warrants
2 Trust, local knowledge, and distributed centralisation
3 Facework, interaction, and the performance of trustworthiness
4 Reviewing science, trusting the reviewers
Conclusion - Regulatory giraffes?



Adam Hedgecoe is Professor in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University

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