A 'good' ethical review: audit and professionalism in research ethics

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How does one conduct, measure and record a ‘good’ ethical review of biomedical research? To what extent do ethics committees invoke professionalism in researchers and in themselves, and to what extent do they see competence as adherence to a set of standard operating procedures for ethical review? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with the Forum of Ethics Review Committees of Asia and the Pacific (FERCAP), a capacity-building NGO that runs ethics committee trainings and reviews in the Asia Pacific region, I develop an analysis of ethical review and its effects. I focus on a ‘second-order audit’ run by FERCAP, which recognises committees according to a set of standards that are designed to render ‘local’ committees internationally legible. The article adds to a growing comparative literature that expands studies of audit-like measuring and disciplining activities beyond western contexts and enriches readings of ‘ethics’. I begin and end with a reflection on the ethical effects of a measurement practice that takes ethics itself as its object.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Anthropology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)53-67
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2015


  • research ethics
  • audit
  • professions
  • transnational
  • Asia


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