Call for papers: Looking Forward/Looking Back: Law, Ethics, and Policy in the Age of COVID-19

Call for papers: Looking Forward/Looking Back: Law, Ethics, and Policy in the Age of COVID-19

Virtual workshop: 3-4 December 2020
Call for papers: deadline 21 October 2020

Presented by the Public Health Law, Ethics & Policy (PHELP) and Research Ethics Streams of the Australasian Association for Bioethics and Health Law.

AABHL members had hoped to come together around this time in Hobart, Tasmania. Unfortunately, that is not to be. This virtual workshop hopes to at least partly fill that gap by providing an opportunity for learning, discussing, and networking based around the overarching story of 2020: COVID-19. The virtual workshop will run for two half-days (to minimise zoom-fatigue). Each day will feature one plenary session and several parallel paper sessions. Each session will be grouped by theme to allow engagement with the selected papers and broader session themes. We will also encourage networking between attendees, but you must supply your own bad conference coffee.

This free virtual workshop will scrutinise COVID-19 from the perspectives of research ethics, public health ethics, public health law, and policy. Six months or so into the pandemic, we can see where bioethics was able to correctly predict and address certain challenges in the 10-15 years leading up to COVID-19 (e.g., the ethics of just and legitimate isolation), while being unable to foresee other issues (e.g., the ill-effects of promoting pre-peer reviewed science). The successes and failures to imagine the challenges in a pandemic brings into sharp relief the way that knowledge and evidence effects our ability to predict issues and help resolve them during the midst of a pandemic.

Spaces to present will be limited. We are seeking work-in-progress papers (not versions of already accepted or published papers). Draft papers will be circulated to attendees in advance of the workshop; the focus of each session will be moderated discussion of the papers.

  • To apply to participate in the paper sessions, please submit a 500 word abstract to: by 21 October 2020.
  • In your submission please include a 50 word bio and indicate if you are an early career scholar. While all submissions will be considered, we will give preference to submissions by early career scholars.
  • We will respond to submissions by 26 October. Full work-in-progress drafts will be due by 26 November to allow pre-circulation and reading before the workshop.

Workshop themes
We invite you to submit papers that engage with our theme of Looking Forward, Looking Back: COVID-19, Law, Ethics, and Policy, such as:

  • What are the key legal, ethical and policy issues that emerged during the COVID-19 crisis? How should we respond?
  • How does COVID-19 demonstrate the relevance and expose the limits of our previous thinking?
  • To what extent have the public health effects and implications of COVID-19 been truly “unprecedented” (perhaps the most overused word of 2020)? What does this mean, if anything, for future academic work in this area?
  • Should we, as a scholarly community, have been better prepared to guide and undertake COVID-19 research, as well as national, regional, and international public health efforts?
  • How useful or relevant have established frameworks, structures, or analogies been in our scholarly and practical responses? Which of these has COVID-19 forced us to reassess, and in what way?
  • How much weight, if any, should we accord to “COVID exceptionalism”?
  • Have we witnessed a failure of imagination? If so, where, and in what way?
  • How have previous issues been exacerbated or marginalised by COVID-19 and what does this mean for future work for AABHL members?
  • What role, if any, should ‘speed’ play in research ethics and in conducting research itself?
  • What are the new problems that have been exposed by COVID-19? How should we respond to them?
  • Where has existing regulation failed? How might it be reformed?
  • What can we learn from a comparative study of the experiences of different countries?
  • What, if anything, can we learn about our understanding and the application of key concepts such as trust, disadvantage, equity, vulnerability, liberty, solidarity and justice?

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