While the bioethics literature demonstrates that the field has spent substantial time and thought over the last four decades on the goals, methods, and desired outcomes for service and training in bioethics, there has been less progress defining the nature and goals of bioethics research and scholarship. This gap makes it difficult both to describe the breadth and depth of these areas of bioethics and, importantly, to gauge their success. However, the gap also presents us with an opportunity to define this scope of work for ourselves and to help shape the broader conversation about the impact of academic research. Because of growing constraints on academic funding, researchers and scholars in many fields are being asked to demonstrate and also forecast the value and impact of their work. To do that, and also to satisfy ourselves that our work has meaningful effect, we must understand how our work can motivate change and how that change can be meaningfully measured. In a field as diverse as bioethics, the pathways to and metrics of change will likewise be diverse. It is therefore critical that any assessment of the impact of bioethics research and scholarship be informed by an understanding of the nature of the work, its goals, and how those goals can and ought to be furthered. In this paper, we propose a conceptual model that connects individual bioethics projects to the broader goals of scholarship, describing the translation of research and scholarly output into changes in thinking, practice, and policy. One of the key implications of the model is that impact in bioethics is generally the result of a collection of projects rather than of any single piece of research or scholarship. Our goal is to lay the groundwork for a thoroughgoing conversation about bioethics research and scholarship that will advance and shape the important conversation about their impact.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects
- Health Policy