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The Social Value of Knowledge and International Clinical Research


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared


In light of the growth in the conduct of international clinical research in developing populations, this paper seeks to explore what is owed to developing world communities who host international clinical research. Although existing paradigms for assigning and assessing benefits to host communities offer valuable insight, I criticize their failure to distinguish between those benefits which can justify the conduct of research in a developing world setting and those which cannot. I argue that the justification for human subjects research is fundamentally grounded in the social value of knowledge, and that this value is context-dependent in a manner which should inform our ethical evaluation of the conduct of research in specific settings. I propose a new framework for the assessment of research benefits assigned to developing world host communities, a natural implication of which is to limit the types of research projects which may permissibly be conducted in developing world settings.