Facework, interaction, and the performance of trustworthiness
in Trust in the system
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One unusual aspect of UK NHS Research Ethics Committees (RECs) is that, for at least the past decade, it has been standard practice to invite applicants into committee meetings to answer questions about their proposed research and the ethical issues it might raise. This chapter explores the role of meeting people face to face in trust decisions to examine the crucial role of such attendance.

Historically, this chapter examines the policy decisions in the early 2000s to expand invitations to applicants which were typically seen as an idiosyncratic practice on the part of a small number of RECs (in Wales and London, for example) at the request of the pharmaceutical industry (which saw such attendance as increasing the efficiency of ethics review).

The ethnographic component of this chapter draws on observations and REC members’ discussions of such attendances, exploring those aspects of applicants’ demeanour and response to questions – their ‘presentation of self’ – that persuade or dissuade RECs to approve their applications. As part of this, the chapter will explore the way in which RECs interpret applicants’ characteristics (for example, arrogance in response to questions) in terms of how research participants will be treated as well as the kinds of knowledge-based resources (about clinical practice for example) that are hard to articulate in a written application, but which applicants can draw on to persuade RECs that they are trustworthy.

Trust in the system

Research Ethics Committees and the regulation of biomedical research

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