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Committee as Witness

Ethics Review as a Technology of Collective Attestation

Rachel Douglas-Jones

Abstract

This article explores the ethics review committee as a contemporary witness to the conduct of biomedical research. Ethics committee work is an internationally growing form of deliberation and decision making, a technology of anticipation that grants researchers access to experimental spaces, research funds and publication venues. Drawing on ethnographic work with a range of ethics committees across the Asia-Pacific region, I explore the metaphorical extension of logics of seeing into bureaucratic forms of ethics review. My analysis untethers the witnessing voice from an individual ‘point of view’, focusing on the attestive assemblage and its documentation. By exploring the committee as a form of collective attestation, I aim to show witnessing as a form of ethical work, for ethical ends.