Article ID: CBB981072036

Situated Practice and the Emergence of Ethical Research: HPV Vaccine Development and Organizational Cultures of Translation at the National Cancer Institute (September 2018)


This article explores the role scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a US federal science agency, played in researching and testing vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Drawing upon archival sources and oral history interview data, I challenge narratives that attribute the design of HPV vaccines to profit motive. Instead, I show that the researchers who developed the technology attempted to construct ethical approaches to vaccine development based on the values that emerged from their situated environments of technological, organizational, and institutional constraint. I argue that interpretations of “translational research” native to the NCI influenced these researchers’ efforts to design and test HPV vaccines. The organizational culture of translational research emerging in the NCI positioned intramural research as a countervailing and supplementary force to market-oriented translational research and development. Over time, NCI researchers’ conceptions of the Institute’s role allowed them to develop understandings of ethical HPV vaccine research as oriented toward addressing cervical cancer health disparities, especially in developing nations. NCI scientists’ understanding of their role in serving the public good through continued HPV vaccine innovation reflects the material and political economic environment they faced at different historical junctures that constrained the possibilities for innovation and ethical action.

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Authors & Contributors
Hannaway, Caroline C.
Henry, Emmanuel
Lewontin, Richard C.
Grob, Gerald N.
Lederer, Susan Eyrich
Kevles, Daniel J.
Science, Technology and Human Values
Social Studies of Science
IOS Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Power (social sciences)
Science and politics
Medicine and politics
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
United States
Hong Kong
Great Britain
National Cancer Institute (U.S.)
National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
National Institute of Health (U.S.)

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