What is research ethics?

Research ethics broadly refers to questions of right action in science, and encompasses research integrity, research involving animals and research involving human beings. Contemporary health research seeks to understand human disease, develop safe and effective treatments for patients, enhance the health of populations and promote policies for health systems that work at a reasonable cost. At each of these levels, researchers encounter difficult ethical questions. Research ethics seeks to identify these questions, clarify key concepts, argue for solutions and distill guidance into policy.


How do I approach research ethics?

My work in research ethics is best described as both interdisciplinary and global in scope. The complex issues raised by health research require interdisciplinary solutions. I work with teams of scientists, methodologists, philosophers and patient partners to address challenges posed by research evaluating drugs, vaccines, public health interventions and government programmes. Increasingly, research is global in its impact, and so my approach takes international ethical principles, rather than regulations, as a starting point. With this approach, research projects have been productive, impactful and have provided outstanding training opportunities for new scholars.


Recent news


I am interviewed on CTV National News about the top news story of 2020. “Investment…in our public health system must remain a national priority moving forward. There is no doubt whatsoever that this is not the last pandemic.”


Invite me to speak

I am available to speak at events for bioethicists, scientists, research ethics committees and the general public.
Current talks include…


Ethics of COVID-19 human challenge studies

Is it ethical to infect healthy volunteers with SARS-CoV-2 to speed vaccine development? As the the first COVID-19 challenge studies are planned in the United Kingdom, serious questions remain about the ethics of these studies. In this talk, I discuss the history of challenge studies and their potential role in COVID-19 vaccine development. I then examine critically issues of scientific and social value, reasonable benefits and risks, and just participant selection.


Do you need ethics advice?

Research ethics guidelines were written for explanatory patient randomized trials evaluating new drugs. Innovative trial designs, including stepped wedge and cluster crossover designs, raise complex ethical questions that can lead to researcher uncertainty, delay in research ethics committee approval and unplanned public scrutiny. As a leading international expert in the ethics of innovative trial designs, I am available to organizations, research ethics committees and trialists for ethics consultations. I have recently acted as an ethics consultant to the Healing Communities Study (sponsored by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse), the E-MOTIVE trial (sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization), and the FLUID trial (sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research).

For further information, please contact me.