Research Ethics Roundup: Housing retired chimps, NYC research rescue efforts, and much more!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so before you start stuffing turkeys and mashing potatoes, take a moment to check out this week’s Research Ethics Roundup. The latest installment of our biweekly series features articles on a range of issues, including recent debate over the use of newborn blood samples, challenges to improving research in Nigeria, and more.

A collective effort to save decades of research as the water rose: Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast last month, leaving a large portion of New York City underwater, without power, or both. The massive outpouring of support offered to researchers and institutions affected by the storm is not only a heartwarming story of scientific solidarity, but also indicative of how interdependent the field has become.

Debate over newborn blood samples: Blood samples taken from newborn babies for the purpose of disease screening are often also used by researchers to study public and individual health issues. Recent lawsuits in Texas and Minnesota have raised concerns over whether research involving newborn blood samples violates individuals’ privacy rights, and whether samples ought to be destroyed after the preliminary disease screening is performed.

How to strengthen health research capacity in Africa, by researchers: The third International Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) met last week to discuss challenges involved in strengthening health research capacity in Africa. Innocent Ujah, the director general of NIMR, cited systematic and institutionalized problems within the African research enterprise as reasons why research there fails to effectively compete in terms of content, budget, and justifications with that of developed countries.

NIH faces chimp housing quandary: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) made headlines in September when director Francis Collins declared all 110 NIH-owned chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center “permanently ineligible” for research. As of this week, there has yet to be a clear consensus regarding where these animals will live out their retirement. Budgetary restrictions and bureaucratic roadblocks have further muddled this sensitive issue.

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