The social value of research: interrogating the paradoxes

Rakhi Ghoshal

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.001


The relation between science and society is, simply put, very complex. In the history of global bioethics, it is the Code of Nuremberg which foregrounded the acute ways in which biomedical/scientific research could (negatively) impact society; this 1947 Code became the point of reference for subsequent research concerning humans. The Code “required that medical experiments on human beings must have the potential to yield fruitful results for the good of society” (1: p72). The Declaration of Helsinki (DoH), 1964 reinstated this concern by stressing that “clinical research cannot be legitimately carried out unless the risks to participants are justified by the importance of the research” – invoking the idea of the “social value” of research. However, in these initial days, “social value” of research was interpreted more in terms of the moral balance of research, a balance to ensure that the benefits of research unambiguously outweighed its risks as far as its participants were concerned.

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