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A ‘good’ ethical review

Audit and professionalism in research ethics

Rachel Douglas‐Jones

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.

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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.

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Building Capacity in Ethical Review

Compliance and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific Region

Rachel Douglas-Jones

Abstract

Capacity building in biomedical research ethics review has been a European priority since the early 2000s. Prompted by the increase in data originating in internationally sponsored trials in emerging economies, a range of capacity building initiatives were put in place in the field of ethical review to ensure the protection of human subjects participating in research. Drawing on fieldwork with the Forum for Ethical Review Committees in the Asian and Western Pacific Region, I explore two distinct forms taken by capacity building within that organization to support and train members of ethics review committees. The first, with an emphasis on standards and measurability, takes as its priority international accountability for clinical trial research. The second explores how the organization goes about persuading trainees to see and do ‘ethics’ differently. This distinction between forms of capacity allows me to explore what will count as ‘success’ in research ethics capacity building.

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Introduction

Capacity Building in Ethnographic Comparison

Rachel Douglas-Jones and Justin Shaffner

Abstract

Capacity building is a pervasive idea that has received little critical treatment from anthropology. In this introduction, we outline the growing use of the idea of ‘capacity building’ within and beyond development settings, and highlight mechanisms by which it gains footholds in both policy and practice. This special issue centres and questions its histories, assumptions, intentions and enactments in order to bring ethnographic attention to the promises it entails. By bringing together cases from different sectors and continents, the collection pursues capacity building’s self-evident character, opening up what capacities themselves are thought to be. By not taking capacity building’s promises for granted, the articles collected here have two aims: to interrogate the means of capacity building’s ubiquity, and to develop critical purchase on its persuasive power.

Open access

‘Credit Is a Basket’

On the Inclusion of Blood Donation in China's Social Credit System

Qiuyu Jiang and Rachel Douglas-Jones

Abstract

In 2019, the National Health Commission of China announced a nation-wide plan to incorporate blood donation into the country's emerging informational infrastructure: the social credit system (SCS). Through analysis of comments from Weibo, one of China's largest social media sites, alongside news articles and official government announcements from the time, we follow the figure of the basket, which we regard as vernacular critique. By analysing the formation of trust indicators, contestations over their commensurability, and the prospect of converting between moral deeds and financial advantage, we aim to augment understandings of the ways that quantification practices are, and become, moral projects.

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Book Reviews

Salla Sariola, Simon Roberts, and Rachel Douglas-Jones

Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society. By Holly Wardlow. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2006. ISBN 0-520-24559-8

Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research. By Patricia Sunderland and Rita Denny (eds.). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-59874-091-2

Anthropology and Science: Epistemologies in Practice. By Jeanette Edwards, Penny Harvey and Peter Wade (eds.). Oxford, New York: Berg (ASA Monographs 43), 2007. ISBN 978 184520 500 3

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Book Reviews

Simon Roberts, Annalise Weckesser-Muthalali, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Monica Janowski, and Mari Korpela

Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations. Melissa Cefkin (ed.), Oxford and New York: Berghahn, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84545-598-9 (Hardback) ISBN 978-1-84545-777-8 (Paperback) 262 pp. Hb £50.00 Pb £21.00

Engaging Contradictions: Theory, Politics and Methods of Activist Scholarship. Charles R. Hale (ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-520-09861-9 (Paperback Only) 417 pp. £24.95

The Anthropology of Organizations. Alberto Corsín Jiménez (ed.), Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-7546-2595-7 (hardback only) 600 pp. £165.00

State, Communities and Forests in Contemporary Borneo. Fadzilah Majid Cooke (ed.), Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2006, ISBN 1-9209425-1-3 (Print Version) 208 pp.

The Nomads of Mykonos: Performing Liminalities in a ‘Queer’ Space. Pola Bousiou, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008, 322 pages, Paperback £15.95, ISBN: 978-1-84545-426-5