Include medical ethics in the Research Excellence Framework

Kong, W M, Vernon, B, Boyd, K, Gillon, R, Farsides, B and Stirrat, G (2011) Include medical ethics in the Research Excellence Framework.

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The Research Excellence Framework of the Higher Education
Funding Council for England is taking place in 2013, its three
key elements being outputs (65% of the profile), impact (20%),
and “quality of the research environment” (15%). Impact will
be assessed using case studies that “may include any social,
economic or cultural impact or benefit beyond academia that
has taken place during the assessment period.”1
Medical ethics in the UK still does not have its own cognate
assessment panel—for example, bioethics or applied
ethics—unlike in, for example, Australia. Several researchers
in medical ethics have reported to the Institute of Medical Ethics
that during the internal preliminary stage of the Research
Excellence Framework several medical schools have decided
to include only research that entails empirical data gathering.
Thus, conceptual papers and ethical analysis will be excluded.
The arbitrary exclusion of reasoned discussion of medical ethics
issues as a proper subject for medical research unless it is based
on empirical data gathering is conceptually mistaken. “Empirical
ethics” is, of course, a legitimate component of medical ethics
research, but to act as though it is the only legitimate component
suggests, at best, a partial understanding of the nature of ethics
in general and medical ethics in particular. It also mistakenly
places medicine firmly on only one side of the
science/humanities “two cultures” divide instead of in its rightful
place bridging the divide.
Given the emphasis by the General Medical Council on medical
ethics in properly preparing “tomorrow’s doctors,” we urge
medical schools to find a way of using the upcoming Research
Excellence Framework to highlight the expertise residing in
their ethicist colleagues. We are confident that appropriate
assessment will reveal work of high quality that can be shown
to have social and cultural impact and benefit beyond academia,
as required by the framework.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Clinical and Experimental Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General) > R723 Medical philosophy. Medical ethics
Depositing User: Ellen Thomas
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2012 15:46
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2017 02:12

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