Research Ethics in Exceptional Times: What Lessons Should We Learn from Covid19?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented acceleration of research. Thousands of papers have been published in a very short time across a wide range of academic disciplines. This has already led to instances of research misconduct and articles have been withdrawn from prominent journals very soon after being published. It has also led to calls for the relaxation of generally accepted research ethics rules and rules concerning the protection of personal data during what is claimed to be an exceptional time of crisis where research need to be speeded up and not hampered by rules more suitable to normal times. This chapter will outline some areas of research where there have been calls for the relaxation of research ethics rules, e.g. challenge studies in vaccine development, use of personal health data in epidemiology and the use of data from contact tracing apps. It will explicate and analyse the arguments presented for allowing such relaxation in exceptional times of crisis from a philosophical point of view. And it will ask to what extent the Covid-19 pandemic is an exceptional time of crisis in comparison with other important historical moments in medical research, and how the calls for exception relaxation of general rules fit with the history of research ethics and regulation. It will be argued that (1) the Covid-19 pandemic is far less exceptional than it initially appears, (2) the arguments for a relaxation of research ethics and data protection rules are less than convincing, and (3) the lesson we should really learn from Covid-19 is that adherence to a well justified set of rules can act as a protection against false exceptionalism and a counter to the temptation to bend the rules in crises.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedical Research Ethics
Subtitle of host publicationChallenges in the 21st Century
EditorsTomas Zima, David N. Weisstub
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9783031126925
ISBN (Print)9783031126918, 9783031126949
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Publication series

NamePhilosophy and Medicine
ISSN (Print)0376-7418
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0080


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