On the Meaning of Community Consent in a Biorepository Context

Article by Astha Kapoor, Samuel Moore, and Megan Doerr: “Biorepositories, vital for medical research, collect and store human biological samples and associated data for future use. However, our reliance solely on the individual consent of data contributors for biorepository data governance is becoming inadequate. Big data analysis focuses on large-scale behaviors and patterns, shifting focus from singular data points to identifying data “journeys” relevant to a collective. The individual becomes a small part of the analysis, with the harms and benefits emanating from the data occurring at an aggregated level.

Community refers to a particular qualitative aspect of a group of people that is not well captured by quantitative measures in biorepositories. This is not an excuse to dodge the question of how to account for communities in a biorepository context; rather, it shows that a framework is needed for defining different types of community that may be approached from a biorepository perspective. 

Engaging with communities in biorepository governance presents several challenges. Moving away from a purely individualized understanding of governance towards a more collectivizing approach necessitates an appreciation of the messiness of group identity, its ephemerality, and the conflicts entailed therein. So while community implies a certain degree of homogeneity (i.e., that all members of a community share something in common), it is important to understand that people can simultaneously consider themselves a member of a community while disagreeing with many of its members, the values the community holds, or the positions for which it advocates. The complex nature of community participation therefore requires proper treatment for it to be useful in a biorepository governance context…(More)”.

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