The Ethics of Public Policy Experiments: Lessons from Clinical Research Ethics

In Ana S. Iltis & Douglas MacKay (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Research Ethics. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press (2020)
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Social scientists and research ethicists have begun, somewhat belatedly, to confront and address the ethical challenges raised by public policy experiments. In doing so however, they have not fully availed themselves of the large and sophisticated literature on the ethics of clinical research which has developed over the past 40 years. While clinical and public policy research are different, I argue that the clinical research ethics literature yields valuable insights for discussions of the ethics of policy experiments. Focusing on seven ethical issues which have received a good deal of attention in public and scholarly discussions of the ethics of policy experiments, I make use of the history of reflection on the ethics of clinical research to provide guidance to researchers planning and conducting policy experiments.

Author's Profile

Douglas MacKay
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


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