Conditions of Collaboration: Protecting the Integrity of the Scientific Enterprise


So what does it take to keep medical research a well-oiled enterprise that efficiently and effectively delivers cures? Lots of cooperation–or so I argue, along with co-authors Alex John London and Marina Emborg in a piece appearing in Science [a publicly accessible version of the essay is available at Science Progress]. Unfortunately, we argue, the way or system of drug development currently thinks about the ethics of clinical research does not presently place sufficient emphasis on the conditions necessary to sustain this cooperation.

Right now, oversight of clinical research is focused almost exclusively on protecting the personal interests of human subjects by obtaining valid informed consent and ensuring that risks are reasonable in relation to benefits. We suggest that this ostensibly private transaction between investigators and patient-volunteers has a public dimension in at least three ways. First, such private transactions inevitably draw on public resources. Second, such transactions have externalities- adverse events occurring on one trial have potential to disrupt collaborations elsewhere in the research system. Third, lax oversight of such private transactions creates conditions where consumers have difficulty identifying (and hence rewarding) producers of high quality goods (namely, trials that are well designed).

We suggest that, when considering whether to initiate highly innovative clinical trials that draw on such public goods, proper oversight and analysis must take into consideration factors that lie beyond the personal interests of human volunteers. (photo credit: McKillaboy, Cataglyphis velox 22, 2009)


    title = {Conditions of Collaboration: Protecting the Integrity of the Scientific Enterprise},
    journal = {STREAM research},
    author = {Jonathan Kimmelman},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2010,
    month = may,
    day = 18,
    url = {}


Jonathan Kimmelman. "Conditions of Collaboration: Protecting the Integrity of the Scientific Enterprise" Web blog post. STREAM research. 18 May 2010. Web. 21 Oct 2020. <>


Jonathan Kimmelman. (2010, May 18). Conditions of Collaboration: Protecting the Integrity of the Scientific Enterprise [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Old blog posts

All content © STREAM research
Twitter: @stream_research
3647 rue Peel
Montreal QC H3A 1X1