Research Ethics Roundup: New Informed Consent Models, Animal Behavior and Neuroscience, FDA’s Safety Record, New Science Journalism Infographic

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup covers experts’ views on the future of informed consent, why neuroscientists are not studying animals’ natural behavior, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s defenders highlight its success record, and Nature reacts to a science journalism infographic.

Informed Consent: In this New England Journal of Medicine article, contributors summarize how innovations in informed consent are improving the process for both subjects and researchers. PRIM&R Board of Directors Vice Chair Dr. Christine Grady reviews how the informed consent process is being redesigned to reflect new technology and the changing nature of research as big data studies and pragmatic trials become more prevalent. However, Dr. Grady cautions that more empirical research is needed about how best to obtain informed consent in this changing landscape. 

How Brain Scientists Forgot That Brains Have Owners: Ed Yong reports for The Atlantic on the increasing concern that neuroscientists are not studying the natural behavior of animals before embarking on research with animals’ neurons. However, a researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory points out that in order to study an animal’s natural behavior, scientists need to do a better job of recreating their natural environment.

“Burdensome” FDA Drug Approval Process Fuels Innovation, Saves Lives: In this opinion piece for Forbes, David Kroll argues that critics of the FDA’s review process should remember the agency’s history of protecting patients from unsafe drugs and devices. Kroll cites a recent speech by former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf highlighting one example, in which the FDA’s thorough approval process gave cardiologists a better understanding of the risks associated with a new heart valve.

Science Journalism Can Be Evidence-Based, Compelling—and Wrong: This Nature editorial highlights an infographic that ranks news websites on their presentation of scientific news. Although Nature itself received high marks from the infographic’s creators, the publication questions the criteria used by the creators. They also note that journalists are increasingly offering more sophisticated analyses of research flaws.