Are the Biomedical Sciences Sliding Toward Institutional Corruption? And Why Didn't We Notice It?

26 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2015 Last revised: 27 Jul 2015

See all articles by Barbara K. Redman

Barbara K. Redman

New York University Division of Medical Ethics

Date Written: March 25, 2015


The social role of science is to produce reliable knowledge within the bounds of safety for subjects and subsequent users. Regulations in human subjects protection, research misconduct and control of conflict of interest have failed to prevent widespread bias and irreproducibility in scientific findings, which weakened their protections as well as undermining production of reliable knowledge. Effects of conflicts of interest involving commercial interests have largely continued unabated despite legal attempts to control some of them. Quality control has been inadequately addressed under scientific self-regulation and research has not been done to assure that regulatory mechanisms are effective in meeting their purposes. Other fields (economics) and other countries (China) also show clear signs of institutional corruption. Better management of the current regulatory system will be insufficient. Institutional corruption provides a new lens for looking at research ethics in the biomedical sciences and suggests new regulatory approaches. Research could be treated as a product that must pass tests of verifiability. Bioethics commissions have been very useful in defining issues but require strong political follow-up to be implemented. Current legal mechanisms are in multiple ways a poor fit to ensure scientific integrity. Meta-science (the science of science) will continue to provide empirical evidence relevant to how well science is meeting its public purpose; stronger ethical norms and political will to impose them will be necessary.

Keywords: institutional corruption, biomedical science, human subjects protection, research misconduct, science self-regulation

Suggested Citation

Redman, Barbara K., Are the Biomedical Sciences Sliding Toward Institutional Corruption? And Why Didn't We Notice It? (March 25, 2015). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 59, Available at SSRN: or

Barbara K. Redman (Contact Author)

New York University Division of Medical Ethics ( email )

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