Research Ethics Roundup: Reconsidering the Placebo Effect, the Disclosure of Clinical Trial Data, and More

In this week’s Research Ethics Roundup, we explore how shifting conceptions of research—from the growing demand for the sharing of clinical trial data to a renewed emphasis on statistical power in animal research—are challenging current thinking. Read on and share your thoughts on these pieces and other research ethics and oversight news in the comments.
Is the Placebo Effect in Some People’s Genes?:  A recent study published in Trends in Molecular Biology found that an individual’s response to a placebo may be affected by his or her genetics. This article from Reuters provides an overview of the research, as well as the potential implications of this finding for clinical research.
NIH Research: Think Globally: Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, advocate for US investment in research aimed at addressing global health issues in this editorial from Science.
UK Funders Demand Strong Statistics for Animal Studies: Concerns about studies that lack statistical power have resulted in changes to the guidelines put forward by United Kingdom bodies responsible for distributing funding for research involving animals. In this article for Nature, Daniel Cressey provides background on the change, including the role of the 3Rs.
US Societies Push Back Against NIH Reproducibility Guidelines: In November, the National Institutes of Health developed guidelines intended to “improve the reproducibility of preclinical research.” However, some groups are concerned that the guidelines, which have been adopted by many journals, need further refinement. Monya Baker explores the issue in this piece from Nature.
WHO Joins the Push for Greater Disclosure of Clinical Trial Data: Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new position statement that calls for companies to release the results—both negative and positive—of all clinical trials of medical products. In this piece for The Wall Street Journal’s Pharmalot, Ed Silverman summarizes the WHO’s position, as well as the reaction from the research community.