Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 1037–1042 | Cite as

The Evolution of Policy Issues in Stem Cell Research: An International Survey

  • Timothy Caulfield
  • Christen Rachul
  • Amy Zarzeczny


Stem cell research remains a tremendously promising yet controversial field of study. It continues to attract considerable public interest and generate discussion and debate. However, while the high profile of this field has endured, the tone and nature of the discourse that drives this profile appears to be changing. In order to get a better sense of how these potential shifts are perceived by individuals directly embedded in the field, we conducted an international internet survey of members of the stem cell research community. Our participants included individuals publishing on both scientific and ethical, legal and social issues topics. We explored the degree to which participants perceived that key policy issues were becoming more or less contentious over time. We queried views regarding the effect of regulatory frameworks on emerging stem cell research technologies and the extent to which participants experience pressure related to clinical translation. We also explored participants’ relationships with industry, experience with patents and perceptions regarding the emphasis placed on the potential economic benefits of stem cell research. Our results suggest that while traditional debates such as those surrounding the moral status of the embryo remain, other issues more closely associated with clinical translation and commercialization are perceived as becoming increasingly contentious. This survey provides useful insight into the perspectives of a sample of active researchers working in countries around the world as well as an opportunity to reflect on the likely direction of future stem cell policy debates.


Ethics Policy Stem cell research Debate Moral status of the embryo Clinical translation Commercialization 



This work was supported in part by Canada’s Stem Cell Network and by the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, with funding from the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI-047), and through the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CSC-105367). The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of their funders, institutions and project collaborators.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

12015_2012_9404_MOESM1_ESM.docx (28 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 27 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy Caulfield
    • 1
    • 3
  • Christen Rachul
    • 1
  • Amy Zarzeczny
    • 2
  1. 1.Health Law and Science Policy GroupUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public PolicyUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada
  3. 3.Law CentreUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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