The Multiple Practices of Doing ‘Ethics in the Laboratory’: A Mid-level Perspective

Marianne Boenink

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


When ethicists go to the laboratory they move ‘upstream’ in the development of science and technologies. This move is often justified by two arguments. The first one hinges on ethics’ effectiveness: doing ethics in the laboratory presumably creates more opportunities for co-shaping the eventually resulting technology. The second is concerned with the relevance of ethics: close cooperation with scientists and engineers may help to focus ethical reflection on the most urgent and pressing ethical issues, and to avoid empty speculation about what might happen in the future. If ethics in the laboratory lives up to these promises, it seems a valuable and justified move, creating an ethics that fits the complex and evolving character of its object: new and emerging science and technologies. Talking about ‘ethics in the laboratory’ suggests, however, that there is a uniform and well defined way of doing ethics in the laboratory. This is hardly the case; there is a set of publications sharing the idea that it would be useful if ethics enters the laboratory [or, more generally, becomes involved in real-time research and development (R&D)], suggesting various approaches for doing so.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics on the Laboratory Floor
EditorsSimone van der Burg, Tsjalling Swierstra
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-00293-8
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-43407-7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Synthetic biology
  • Engineer ethic
  • Laboratory practice
  • Ethical work
  • Family resemblance


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