This panel explores the notion of medical research as a form of development. That is, the ways in which medical research has become entwined in discourses of development, contributing to the improvement of local circumstances in the same moment that it strives to 'measure' them.
Since the 1990s there has been a substantial increase in the volume of medical research being conducted in low and middle income countries (LMICs). Despite travelling with explicit epistemological purposes, medical research shapes and constructs local realities in the same moment that it strives to 'measure' them. Material improvements, capacity building, even nation-building - aspirations such as these are woven into research cultures in ways that unsettle abstract biomedical futures. Mainstream bioethics has begun to acknowledge that researchers should contribute to improving local circumstances as well as ensuring access to licensed products. Indeed, capacity building and benefit sharing are now standard features of research initiatives, and the research enterprise more generally has become entangled in discourses of development. Yet the idea of development as progress is problematic. What problems arise when practices that rely on inequities in health and wealth to generate data become engaged in their alleviation? Who gets to define what development means and how? To what extent do transnational research collaborations have genuine transformative potential? Or do developmental practices function to exacerbate existing inequalities and even generate novel ones? Answering these questions requires close attention to the everyday interactions between researchers, their local collaborators, and study populations, as well as the futures and moral visions that they enact. We therefore invite papers that grapple with the predicament of research as development - its possibilities and limitations, inclusions and omissions - and what this might mean for more responsible and responsive medical research in LMICs.