Embryos, ethics and expertise: The emerging model of the research ethics regulator

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4 Scopus citations


Embryonic stem cell research poses challenges for traditionally secular governing structures. An increasingly popular response has been to create research ethics regulators, bureaucratic agencies assigned to generate or enforce normative regulations surrounding the use of embryos in research. This paper examines three examples: Japan's Bioethics and Biosafety Office, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. It explores the structure and mandate of each agency, its definition and employment of ethico-technical expertise and the extent to which the relocation of normative decision-making from the political sphere and into the voluntary sphere has democratized decision-making about the use of emerging technologies. We conclude that the model of the research ethics regulator appears successful at ameliorating public conflict and channeling dissent but there is little evidence to suggest that a reliance on ethico-technical, lay expertise has resulted in the relief of traditional critiques of regulatory culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-609
Number of pages13
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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