Research ethics in a pandemic: Considerations for the use of research infrastructure and resources for public health activities

Megan Doerr, Jennifer K. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The number and size of existing research studies with massive databases and biosample repositories that could be leveraged for public health response against SARS-CoV-2 (or other infectious disease pathogens) are unparalleled in history. What risks are posed by coopting research infrastructure-not just data and samples but also participant recruitment and contact networks, communications, and coordination functions-for public health activities? The case of the Seattle Flu Study highlights the general challenges associated with utilizing research infrastructure for public health response, including the legal and ethical considerations for research data use, the return of the results of public health activities relying upon research resources to unwitting research participants, and the possible impacts of public health reporting mandates on future research participation. While research, including public health research, is essential during a pandemic, careful consideration should be given to distinguishing and balancing the ethical mandates of public health activities against the existing ethical responsibilities of biomedical researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Law

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