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Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 51–73 | Cite as

Ethics in the Minutiae: Examining the Role of the Physical Laboratory Environment in Ethical Discourse

  • Louise BezuidenhoutEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Responsibility within life science research is a highly scrutinised field. Increasingly, scientists are presented with a range of duties and expectations regarding their conduct within the research setting. In many cases, these duties are presented deontologically, forgoing extensive discussion on how these are practically implemented into the minutiae of daily research practices. This de-contextualized duty has proven problematic when it comes to practical issues of compliance, however it is not often considered as a fundamental aspect of building ethics discourse. This paper examines this issue in detail, particularly focusing on how differences in the contrasts between the ideal and real physical research environments cause conceptual problems for scientists and retard ethical engagement. Such issues are particularly pertinent in low- and middle-income countries. This paper combines theoretical and empirical analyses using the concept of “dual-use” as a focalizing topic. The data show that the research environment acts as an intimate component in the interpretation and implementation of ethical actions.

Keywords

Life science ethics Empirical ethics Bioethics Research environments Low- and middle-income countries Ethics pedagogy Africa 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Prof Brian Rappert and Dr Mariana Wilson-Kovacs for their valuable comments on the manuscript, as well as Dr Brian Balmer for additional advice. The fieldwork presented in this paper was sponsored by a Grant from the Wellcome Trust.

Conflict of interest

There is no known conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Philosophy and AnthropologyUniversity of ExeterExeterUK
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy, WITS Centre for Ethics (WiCE)University of WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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