Locating Ethics: Capacity building, Ethics Review and Research Governance Across Asia

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


Research ethics has become integrated into what it means to conduct good science. This thesis is about the nature of that integration, which I argue is not neutral, carrying with it ideas of duty, moral obligations, organisational mechanisms, and processes of monitoring. For developing countries to participate in global research, the pre-requisite of ethical review has necessitated a growth in capacity building exercises.

The chapters aim to elucidate ethnographically the activities and implications of 'capacity building' activities in biomedical research ethics, through following the trainings, assessments and networking of the Forum of Ethics Review Committees of Asia and the Pacific (FERCAP), a Non-Governmental Organisation. The work provides a critical reflection on the spread and uptake of ethics, contributing particularly to literatures in medical anthropology, organisational studies, and development anthropology. Drawing on material from ethnographic fieldwork with the NGO in Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and mainland China over 12 months between March 2009 and November 2010, it advances an argument that the uptake of ethics through forms such as the Ethics Review Committee implicates social relations in new forms of management, with the moralities assumed to be part of ethics attaching to varied understandings of obligation, accountability, trust and personhood. Central to the analysis is the exploration of the co-existence of standardisation with practices of differentiation within the activities of FERCAP, a tension explored through a theoretical framework informed by attention to fractal imageries replicated across the settings of research.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDurham University
Number of pages299
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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