Original Paper

Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 395-406

First online:

Scientific Self-Regulation—So Good, How Can it Fail?

Commentary on “The Problems with Forbidding Science”
  • Patrick L. TaylorAffiliated withHarvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston Email author 

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To be a functional alternative to government regulation, self-regulation of science must be credible to both scientists and the public, accountable, ethical, and effective. According to some, serious problems continue in research ethics in the United States despite a rich history of proposed self-regulatory standards and oversight devices. Successful efforts at self-regulation in stem cell research contrast with unsuccessful efforts in research ethics, particularly conflicts of interest. Part of the cause for a lack of success in self-regulation is fragmented, disconnected oversight, and failure to embody genuine scientific and public consensus. To be accountable, credible and effective, self-regulation must be inclusive and multidisciplinary, publicly engaged, sufficiently disinterested, operationally integrated with institutional goals, and must implement a genuine consensus among scientists and the public. The mechanisms of self-regulation must be sufficiently broad in their oversight, and interconnected with other institutional forces and actors, that they do not create fragmented solutions.


Research ethics Conflicts of interest Self-regulation Stem cells ESCROs Responsible conduct of research Misconduct