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No Dumping

The Economist writes that while the recent announcement of the birth of twin girls in China at first seems to be the case of a rogue researcher, it adds that a deeper look suggests it could be an instance of "ethics dumping."

Ethics dumping, it says, is when a researcher from a wealthy nation with strict regulations chooses to do work that wouldn't fly at home in a less-affluent country with looser laws. In this case, the Economist notes that Rice University's Michael Deem was linked to the work, which would have needed likely-not-forthcoming permission from the Food and Drug Administration if it were conducted in the US. Indeed, Stat News reported yesterday that Deem's involvement might have been considerable as he was listed as the last author — He Jiankui was the first author — on a paper describing the work that was submitted to, and rejected by, Nature.

The Economist adds that the European Union sponsored a multi-year study, dubbed TRUST, into ethics dumping that found that it sometimes occurs because researchers are unaware of regulations in other countries, but also sometimes because they are trying to avoid ones governing research in Europe. The researchers have also proposed guidelines to prevent ethics dumping, including requiring review in all involved countries, it adds.