Social contexts influence ethical considerations of research

Am J Bioeth. 2011 May;11(5):24-30. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2011.560338.


This article argues that we could improve the design of research protocols by developing an awareness of and a responsiveness to the social contexts of all the actors in the research enterprise, including subjects, investigators, sponsors, and members of the community in which the research will be conducted. "Social context" refers to the settings in which the actors are situated, including, but not limited to, their social, economic, political, cultural, and technological features. The utility of thinking about social contexts is introduced and exemplified by the presentation of a hypothetical case in which one central issue is limitation of the probability of injury to subjects by selection of individuals who are not expected to live long enough for the known risks of the study to become manifest as harms. Benefits of such considerations may include enhanced subject satisfaction and cooperation, community acceptance, and improved data quality, among other desirable consequences.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • AIDS Vaccines / immunology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / ethics
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Ethics, Research
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Mass Media*
  • Public Opinion*
  • Research Design*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Research Subjects*
  • Social Environment*


  • AIDS Vaccines