Essential ethics

November 26, 2004

The debate about ethical oversight of research in the social sciences seems to be becoming unnecessarily polarised (Letters, November 12). Surely we have nothing to fear from procedures that require us to submit research with human subjects to ethical review by our peers?

Indeed, my experience has been that this process has helped me to think through important issues of research design and to pass that experience to others. It certainly does not seem to me to threaten free inquiry or to promote corruption and inefficiency in the way that Robert Dingwall argues.

In a number of universities, we have been reviewing one another's research proposals in the social sciences for a number of years without apparent catastrophic consequences. The Nuffield Foundation's intervention in the debate is welcome.

Brian Williams

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