This article examines the work that goes in to ‘making room’ for ethics, literally and figuratively. It follows the activities of a capacity building Asia-Pacific NGO in training and recognising ethics review committees, using multi-sited field materials collected over 12 months between 2009 and 2010. Two queries drive this article: First, how are spaces made for ethical review –politically, infrastructurally, materially – as committee members campaign for attention to ethics and access to resources in which to conduct their meetings? Second, how are the limits of ‘local circumstance’ negotiated during a review of the committee’s work: what does the implementation of standards in the area of ethics look like? I then discuss what standards of ethics practice mean for more fraught questions of the universal in bioethics. Rather than regarding ethics systems as backgrounds to global health projects, this article’s STS and ethnographic approach reveals ethical review as a site of contested standardisation.