Ethics as ritual: smoothing over moments of dislocation in biomedicine
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Applications of biomedical R&D currently imply substantial societal concerns. This paper explores, based on semi‐structured interviews with scientists in Norway, how biomedical researchers experience and tackle such concerns in their daily work. It shows how ritualised routine responses to dislocatory moments help maintain order in the daily work of the interviewed scientists; they do not address directly but instead smooth over concerns by a ritualised way of using ethics. This may foreclose substantive reflection and function as a stabiliser for ‘business as usual’. Overall, the current way of responding to concerns as described by the interviewees may contribute to a depoliticisation of important issues. The paper contributes to sociological work on ethics by linking it to recent discussions on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and by the empirical research presented. The insights can also help improve science policies such as RRI.