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: +44 207 380 9995

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 recently 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. She is currently organising a series of interdisciplinary conferences on contemporary problems faced by experimental medicine for the BRC.

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 research has been cited by many national and international guidelines in research ethics in including work by the UK Royal College of Physicians and by the US Obama Commission on Bioethics. She is also 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 teaches mainly postgraduates and is currently designing an education programme for health researchers through the Experimental Domain of the School of Life and Medical Sciences as well as through the Clinical Research Facility. She also leads the MSc in Translational Clinical Science and contributes to the MA in PPE of Health.

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

She is currently primary supervisor for two PhD students, one funded by the MRC and the other by the Wellcome Trust, to examine issues of political philosophy and of regulation in the context of research designs including cluster trials. To discuss possible PhD proposals in research ethics, please contact Sarah at sarah.edwards@ucl.ac.uk.

Publications include:


Edwards SJL., Wilson J. Evidence, Trials and Translation: Thinking about 21st Century Medicine, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

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

Robinson E., Kerr C., Stevens AJ., Lilford RJ., Edwards SJL. Lay understanding of randomisation and equipoise in RCTs. 2005; 9 (8) Health Technology Assessment

Edwards SJL., Lilford RJ., Jackson JC., Thornton J., Braunholtz DA. Ethical issues in the design and conduct of RCTs. Health Technology Assessment 1998; 2 (15).

Peer-reviewed papers

Edwards SJL. Drug discovery at the bedside: regulation of clinical science during a pandemic. American Journal of Bioethics forthcoming.

Jonathan Wolff, Sarah Edwards, Sarah Richmond, O. R. R. Shepley & Geraint Rees 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

Rees G., Edwards SJL. Is pain in the brain? Nature Reviews Neurology 2009; 5: 76-77

Edwards SJ, Omar R. Ethics review of research: in pursuit of proportionality. J Med Ethics. 2008 Jul;34(7):568-72. Edwards SJL., Stone T., Swift T. Differences between Research Ethics Committees International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care 2007; 23 (1): 1-7

Edwards SJ. Restricted treatments, inducements, and research participation. Bioethics. 2006 Apr;20(2):77-91. Edwards SJ, Ashcroft R, Kirchin S. Research ethics committees: differences and moral judgement. Bioethics. 2004 Sep;18(5):408-27.

Edwards SJL., Kirchin S. Rationing, randomising, and researching in health care provision. Journal of Medical Ethics 2002 Feb; 28(1):20-3.

Edwards SJL., Braunholtz DA., Lilford RJ., Stevens AJ. Ethical issues in the design and conduct of cluster randomised controlled trials. BMJ1999;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


Li C., Davies H., Edwards SJL. Ethics of patient retention in weight management trials: a survey in research ethics committee members. Journal of Medical Ethics (under review).

Bidad N., MacDonald L., Winters ZE, 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 (under review).