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Practice evaluation of biobank ethics and governance: current needs and future perspectives
  1. Holger Langhof1,2,
  2. Johannes Schwietering2,
  3. Daniel Strech1,2
  1. 1 Charité – University Medicine Berlin, QUEST – Center for Transforming Biomedical Research, Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Berlin, Germany
  2. 2 Institute for History, Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Hannover Medical School (MHH), Hannover, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Holger Langhof, QUEST-Center for Transforming Biomedical Research, Charité – University Medicine, Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Berlin 10178, Germany; holger.langhof{at}


Background Biobank research faces many ethical challenges. Ethics research aims to develop standards for governance to meet these challenges by elaborating overarching normative principles of medical ethics in the context of biobanking. Most ethical standards are widely agreed on among biobank stakeholders and entail specific governance solutions, for example, adoption of consent procedures. In order to fully meet its goal, every governance solution needs to be implemented, evaluated and, if necessary, adapted and improved in practice. This study reviews the scientific literature on biobank ethics and governance in order to identify studies that specifically focus on practice evaluation of biobank governance.

Methods A PubMed search was carried out. Retrieved literature was categorised and thematically clustered. All studies that focus on practice evaluation were reviewed and their objectives, results, and recommendations for practice summarised.

Results The findings show that the majority of studies on biobank ethics and governance are theoretical; only 25 out of 922 studies empirically evaluate biobank governance in practice. The majority of these (14; 59%) focused on informed consent. Six studies (24%) addressed practice evaluation of sample and data access; the rest focused on public involvement, ethics reporting and incidental findings. Other relevant governance areas such as ethics review, priority setting and sample ownership were not addressed.

Conclusion In order to fulfil the ethical goals, more empirical research is needed that provides information on how governance mechanisms perform in practice and what improvements are needed.

  • ethics
  • evidence based practice

Statistics from


  • Contributors DS planned the study. HL and JS carried out the data collection and analysis. All authors interpreted the data. HL wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding Funded internally.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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