The Eclipse of 'Human Subjects' and the Rise of 'Human Participants' in Research Involving Humans
28 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2011
Date Written: June 15, 2011
The 2010 edition of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) adopts a new language of human participants, leaving the previous central concept of “human subjects” behind. This paper seeks to identify the reasons for this important change and stimulate a debate over the main subject of the policy. In particular, it considers whether the transition to human participants was necessitated by harmonization and unification in approaches to ethical oversight on the basis of the biomedical standard, or whether it was an outcome of a given regulatory approach, which is prima facie congruent with “new governance” approaches. It also examines negative performativity of “human subjects” in relation to researchers and research subjects. Finally, it calls for a critical assessment of the current universalist framework to prevent the concept of “human participants” from becoming a euphemism.
Keywords: research involving humans, human subjects, human participants, TCPS, REB, harmonization, standardization, bioethics, social sciences
JEL Classification: K23, K32, I18, I23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation