Methods and methodology in empirical bioethics - Webinar series

6 September 2021, 4.00 PM - 27 September 2021, 5.30 PM

The webinar is organised by by Jon Ives, Mikey Dunn, Jan Schildmann & Bert Molewijk. Guest speakers include: Dr Veerle Provoost, Prof. Sabine Salloch, Dr Louise Austin, Dr Rouven Porz.

Online webinar

This webinar series is open to all and will offer an introduction to methods and methodology in Empirical Bioethics.

It is being organised by Jon Ives (Bristol), Mikey Dunn (Oxford), Jan Schildmann (Halle) & Bert Molewijk (Amsterdam), and is the first in a series of training and learning activities around empirical bioethics that the team is organising, supported by funding from EACME and VU Association.

Each webinar will focus on different areas of empirical bioethics, and will be interactive, including small group work and the opportunity for Q&A with expert speakers.

Some session will involve a small amount preparatory work, which should take no more than 45 minutes.

The webinars will run weekly through September 2021, at 1600-1730 UK time

The webinar series will be followed by a spring school for methods and methodology in empirical bioethics, which will be held in Amsterdam from 4th-7th April 2022. Further information about this event will be announced separately.

The webinar programme:

September 6th: Introduction to Empirical Bioethics

Empirical bioethics, broadly, aims to utilise empirical research to help identify, elucidate and/or resolve bioethical problems.  There are, accordingly, a very wide range of research activities that might be labelled ‘empirical’ bioethics, but which nonetheless have very divergent aims and methods.  In this session, we will survey the heterogeneity of empirical bioethics as a field, and also spend some time defining the scope of this webinar series as being concerned with a specific account of empirical bioethics that seeks to integrate empirical and ethical analysis to inform normative conclusions.

The first webinar will serve to orientate you in the field of empirical bioethics, and encourage you to consider how and where your research fits into the field and to think about what skills and knowledge you need to develop in order to progress your research.

September 13th : Integrating empirical and ethical analysis: what does it mean, what are the challenges, and how should it be done?

Guest Speakers: Prof Sabine Salloch; TBC; TBC

Those working in empirical bioethics share a commitment to integrate (connect/combine) empirical data with ethical analysis as part of a broad methodological design. However, overarching strategies for integration can be unclear or problematic. Part of the reason for this is because integration depends on bringing together disciplinary approaches that do not obviously fit well together – given their different assumptions and expectations. It can be difficult to know how (or whether it is valid) to ‘break free’ of standard, well-established and robust social scientific and philosophical approaches to analysing qualitative data and ethical considerations, in an innovative, interdisciplinary methodological approach. Another difficulty is that empirical bioethics is now characterised by a large number of disparate and complex methodologies, most of which take a different stance on what integration demands, and how it ought to be practiced in the conduct of a specific research project.

In this webinar, we will face the challenges of integrating empirical and ethical analysis head on. We will see how methodologies in empirical bioethics can be more or less integrated in how they are designed, and we will consider a typology that can differentiate between approaches to integration in empirical bioethics – understanding the basic tenets of what these methodologies seek to achieve, why this is so, and difficulties that they can present.

September 20th : How to find the morally (relevant) findings in empirical qualitative data

Guest Speakers: Dr Veerle Provoost; TBC

Many researchers, independently of whether they identity themselves or their research as empirical ethics research(er), are analysing qualitative data (e.g. interview and focus group transcripts) and looking for moral issues (e.g. ‘moral challenges’, ‘moral dilemmas’, ‘moral doubt’). Yet, looking for these kind of categories presupposes some ideas about 1) why they are necessary in the first place within empirical ethics research; 2) theoretical and epistemological understanding of what these categories are; and 3) how to actually detect them in the qualitative data.

How do you ‘find’ a moral dilemma or a moral doubt in a transcript? Are (some) expressed emotions normative statements? Are factual claims normative? What with respect to more hidden or implicit categories (e.g. opinions from respondents represented as facts).

During this Webinar, we will present some theoretical viewpoints, concepts of ‘moral categories’ and methods how to find and identify them. Participants will be invited to bring in their own method of detecting moral categories and challenges related to that, including training needs.

September 27th: Empirical bioethics in research practice

Guest Speakers:  Dr Louise Austin; Dr Rouven Porz; TBC

A range of methods has been proposed to use empirical data for the purpose of answering ethical normative research questions. However, there is little literature on aspects related to research practice, when applying these methods as part of multi- and interdisciplinary empirical bioethics studies. Examples for questions related to research practice in empirical bioethics are the qualification needed of the researcher(s) who wish to apply a particular method of empirical bioethics, guidance on the concrete steps involved with integrating empirical and normative analyses on the micro-level, strength and weaknesses of different methods with regards to particular objectives of empirical bioethics (e.g. identifying, elucidating or resolving bioethical problems). 

In this session three methods will be presented and discussed with a focus on their application in research practice. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss one approach in more detail with experts in applying the respective method in smaller group discussion. Key aspects of the discussions will be summarized as part of a concluding plenary session.


To facilitate exchange of ideas, the number of participants is limited. Priority will be given to those applying first, under the provision that participation will be confirmed first for those participants who are able to attend all four sessions. If there are spare places remaining, these will be made available to participants who can attend only a limited number of the sessions.

The deadline for registration is 6th August 2021, 1700 (GMT).

If you would like to register, please send an email to with the following information:

1. Name

2. Institution

3. Career stage

4. Confirmation of dates you wish to participate

You will notified by 13th August 2021 if you have been successful in getting a place, and you will be sent a calendar invitation with joining instructions in advance of each webinar.

Contact information

For questions or further information please contact either Jon Ives ( or Jan Schildmann (

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