Sydney A. Halpern Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus
Department of Sociology
University of Illinois at Chicago
Email: Discipline: Sociology Expertise: Human Subjects Research, Technology

Investigator Award
Human Experimentation and Public Policy
Award Year: 2000 Controversy surrounding federally mandated oversight of human-subjects research has redoubled in recent years as news of regulatory problems receive increased public attention. Advocates continue to call for reform and changes, yet neither scholarship nor public discourse has offered much insight into the sources of recurrent controversies. Dr. Halpern will provide a historically grounded account linking current regulatory problems to both the oversight system and the relations among institutional actors, which shaped its emergence. She will clarify: 1) why the system assumed its current form; 2) what forces and actors shape regulatory practices and possibilities for change; 3) what procedures for handling human experimentation have not been pursued; 4) how policy choices come to be framed; and 5) how regulatory arrangements helped to create or failed to solve policy problems. Her resulting work will describe processes that foster or inhibit change, unintended consequences of reforms, and precedents for alternative oversight measures.


Sydney A. Halpern is professor of sociology and medical humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work examines health care institutions and professions using social science perspectives and historical techniques. She has written about developments within academic medicine, the emergence of medical specialties, evolving relationships among health occupations, and directions in the field of medical sociology. Her recent scholarship addresses the formal and informal regulation of human experimentation and includes Lesser Harms: The Morality of Risk in Medical Research (2004).