Bioethics in Research

As a publicly funded research agency, NIH has a responsibility to make sure we – and the people and work we fund – support ethically grounded research. Being at the intersection of research and policy, OSP works across NIH to integrate ethical principles into the design, conduct, and dissemination of biomedical research.

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Bioethics and OSP

To enable the rapid translation of research discoveries into practice, OSP works to ensure good science and robust ethics go hand in hand. Bioethics is foundational to the entirety of OSP’s policy work, which seeks to anticipate and plan for potential ethical implications for the research NIH supports.

Integrating bioethics into biomedical and behavioral research can enhance the translation of research into practice; increase the inclusion of participant, stakeholder, and societal values; and engender greater trust in the biomedical research enterprise. Additionally, using a bioethical lens to consider biomedical and behavioral research can strengthen individual research studies and the scientific enterprise more broadly, enabling researchers and institutions to anticipate and avoid practices that could erode the trust of research participants and the general public. Therefore, OSP supports efforts to integrate bioethics research across the NIH portfolio, to improve biomedical and behavioral science and to better inform research policies.

OSP-Supported Bioethics Awards

Research into bioethical issues can provide an evidentiary basis to guide conduct, content, and/or application of the biomedical and behavioral sciences and their associated policies. Ethical questions and challenges are interlinked with many of NIH’s general areas of scientific priority, such as responding to public health needs (e.g., COVID-19, the opioid crisis, desire for precision medicine interventions) and emerging scientific opportunities (e.g., new data sharing infrastructure, innovative technologies).

OSP has partnered with NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices to fund administrative supplements to support 1) research on bioethical issues to develop or support the development of an evidence base that may inform future policy directions, and/or 2) certain efforts to develop or augment bioethics research capacity. Applicants may propose to supplement parent awards focused on bioethics or to address a component related to bioethics in a biomedical or behavioral research study. Note that applications must be within the general scope of the parent award. Topics addressed by funded projects have been broad in scope. They include bioethical issues related to the development and use of emerging technologies, data sharing, the inclusion of populations underrepresented in research, participant representation in research, and return of research results to study participants. Information about past awards can be viewed below.

Funding Opportunities Across NIH (updated 07/19/22)

Bioethical issues span the NIH portfolio and, accordingly, there are numerous efforts across the agency to promote research, training, and service related to bioethical issues. The list below includes funding opportunities that, at least in part, explicitly support bioethics or research on ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) research.

This list is not necessarily comprehensive. To search for all active NIH funding opportunities, please visit the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Note that multiple NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices may participate in these opportunities—see the specific opportunities for more details.

Integrating Bioethics and Biomedical Research Symposium

“A Match Made in Science: Integrating Bioethics and Biomedical Research” was held on July 20, 2021. The symposium highlighted the integral role that bioethics plays in advancing science. Panelists discussed concrete examples of how integrating bioethics into biomedical research has strengthened research outcomes, and they shared practical advice for initiating and sustaining successful collaborations between bioethicists and biomedical researchers.