UCL Health Humanities Centre


Dr Sarah JL Edwards

Sarah Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Research Ethics and Governance. She is funded by the UCL/UCLH Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and is a member of the School of Life and Medical Sciences at UCL and a collaborative member of the Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health.

email: sarah.edwards@ucl.ac.uk

phone: +44 203 447 9041

Research interests

Sarah’s research interests lie in the specific context of health research, drawing on methods in philosophy, law and empirical social science to answer different practical and policy questions raised by new health technologies and by research designed to evaluate them.

She is particularly interested in how traditional disciplines can work effectively together to answer common problems. As a result, she often works collaboratively with academics from different departments, having been involved with the UCL ESRC funded network on supported decision making with the Department of Psychology, the UCL Grand Challenge’s Group on Vulnerable Populations with the Centre for Disability Studies, and with the UCL Anthropology and Sociology Forum on Resilience with the Institute for Risk and Disaster Studies.

Sarah is also co-editor of the journal Research Ethics, which is the journal of the UK Association of Research Ethics Committees.

Research Impact

Her work on limits to consent in health research was judged outstanding in terms of its reach and significance (attracting highest score of 4*) by the Philosophy panel of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Her work has consistently been cited by many national and international guidelines in research ethics including work by the UK Royal College of Physicians and by the US Obama Commission on Bioethics. She has also been involved in drafting guidelines including the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on ethics and patient safety research and the Canadian National Institute of Health on ethics and cluster trials. She was interviewed by BBC World News on ethical issues surrounding drug trials on Ebola patients.

Current Public Service appointments

She sits on the MRC Ethics, Regulation and Public Involvement committee advising MRC Council chaired by Baroness Onora O’Neill.

Current grants

Pharmacy Research UK (1st June 2014 – ). Developing ethics framework for policy on pharmacists supporting carers of patients with dementia taking medication. £60, 000 Smith F., Jamieson E. Edwards SJL. O’Neill R. Et al.

Department of Health Therapeutic misconception and adaptive licensing £150, 000 (Jan 2015 –) Morgan M., Barker R., Edwards SJL., Garner S., Rees S.

UCL Grand Challenges. Policy for research ethics in the built environment. (Jun 2014 –) £10, 000 Randell J. Edwards SJL et al.

Walton Foundation (Jan 2013 - ) £25, 000 Research as political advocacy in developing countries Wolff J. and Edwards SJL.

UK Stem Cell Foundation, Heart Cells Foundation and UCLH Charity (Jan 2013 - ) Motivations of patients participating in trials of autologous stem cells in acute and chronic conditions. Edwards SJL., Bavnek K. et al.

Medical Research Council (through UCL Crucible). (1st January 2010 –). PhD studentship on political philosophy and cluster trials. £60, 000 Edwards SJL., Wolff J., Costello A.

Wellcome Trust Developing Countries Bioethics PhD Studentship on human rights and study design (1st Jan 2012 – ), £150, 000, Edwards SJL. Oduwo E.


She teaches mainly postgraduates and is currently developing the Continuing Professional Development programme across UCL and its partner NHS hospitals. She also leads a variety of modules for Masters programmes including the MSc in Clinical Drug Discovery and the MA in PPE of Health.

Sarah also provides training for both university and NHS ethics committees. To discuss planned training events, please contact her at sarah.edwards@ucl.ac.uk .

She is currently primary supervisor for two PhD students.

Recent publications include:

Edwards SJL. Saprai P., Horne R. The rise of digital health feedback technologies BMJ forthcoming

Oduwo E., Edwards SJL. A systematic review of factors affecting children’s right to health in cluster randomized trials in Kenya. Trials 2014, 15: 287 

Bidhad N., MacDonald L., Edwards SJL, Horne R. Views on the right to withdraw from randomised controlled trials assessing quality of life after mastectomy and breast reconstruction (QUEST): findings from the QUEST perspectives study (QPS). Research Ethics 2014; 10 (1): 47-57

Edwards SJL. Drug discovery at the bedside: regulation of clinical science during a pandemic. American Journal of Bioethics 2013;13(9): 3-14 with Response to Open Peer Commentaries American Journal of Bioethics 2013; 13(9):W1-W3

Edwards SJL., Lignou S., Oduwo E. Evidence of efficacy and the right to health [Comment]. American Journal of Bioethics 2012; 12(6): 35-37

Lignou S., Edwards SJL. Can manipulation of information in research: can it be morally justified? Research Ethics 2012; 8(1): 9-23

Richmond S. Rees G. Edwards SJL. (Editors) I know what you’re thinking: neuroscience and mental privacy. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Wolff J., Edwards SJL, Richmond S., Orr S., & Rees G. Evaluating interventions in health: A reconciliatory approach Bioethics 2012; 26 (9):455-463

Edwards SJL., Wilson J. Hard Paternalism and Fairness in Clinical Research: Why Not. Bioethics. 2012; 24 (7): 68-75

Edwards SJL. Assessing the remedy: the case for contracts in clinical trials The American Journal of Bioethics 2011; 11(4): 1-10

Edwards SJL, Patrick Brown, Matt Amon Twyman, Deborah Christie, Tim Rakow What do we want in a surrogate decision maker? Results of a qualitative study Journal of Medical Ethics 2011; 37: 601-605

Conrad E., Edwards SJL. Inequalities and fairness in cluster trials. Research Ethics 2011 7: 58-65

Edwards SJL. The rationale for ethics review of research by committee Research Ethics Review 2009; 5(4): 147–150

Edwards SJL., Student Projects in Medicine: a Lesson in Science and Ethics. Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance, 2009; 16 (6): 285

Edwards SJ, Ashcroft R, Kirchin S. Research ethics committees: differences and moral judgment. Bioethics. 2004 Sep;18(5):408-27.

Edwards SJL., Braunholtz DA., Lilford RJ., Stevens AJ. Ethical issues in the design and conduct of cluster randomised controlled trials. BMJ 1999;318:1407-1409

Edwards SJL., Lilford RJ., Braunholtz DA., Jackson JC. Why “under-powered” trials are not necessarily unethical. The Lancet 1997; 350: 804-07

Unpublished draft

Li C., Davies H., Edwards SJL. Ethics of patient retention in weight management trials: a survey in research ethics committee members. Draft.