World Congress

for freedom of scientific research

Debra JH Mathews: Interstate Collaboration in Stem Cell Research


Lecturer/Position/Organization: Debra JH Mathews, PhD, MA Assistant Director for Science Programs, Phoebe R Berman Bioethics Institute, Johns Hopkins University
Session/Theme: Stem Cell Science and Polices/In the USA
Title of the presentation: Interstate Collaboration in Stem Cell Research
Text: (recommended/maximum length: 1 page)

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are immensely promising for both basic science and clinical application. However, the derivation and use of these cells is both morally contentious and politically controversial. Across the United States, there is discordance with regard to the legal status and regulation of ESC research. This situation is made more complex by the borderless nature of scientific publishing and inevitable interstate research collaborations. In my talk, I will describe a project that we undertook to explore the moral and policy challenges that scientists, universities and scientific journals face as a consequence of differences in state laws and regulations pertaining to ESC research in the United States. For example, should a researcher whose state laws forbid all or some ESC research collaborate or consult with ESC researchers who work in locations where such research is legal? How should research institutions negotiate this legally ambiguous and morally contentious territory? And how should journals respond when collaborations of this kind occur?

The specific objectives of our project were three-fold: 1) To explore the ethical and policy challenges to interstate scientific collaboration in the United States, from the standpoint of scientists, universities and journal editors; 2) To examine the extent to which moral considerations of conscience and complicity underlie these challenges; and 3) To the extent possible, develop guidance for scientists, universities and journal editors that will be useful across state boundaries and regulatory architectures. To this end, we convened a group of leaders in stem cell science, bioethics, law, the academy and scientific publishing to rigorously examine these issues in an interdisciplinary setting. I will discuss the process and progress of this group and briefly describe a similar project that we are undertaking at the international level.

Debra JH Mathews

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