Beyond regulatory compression: Confronting the liminal spaces of health research regulation

Samuel Willoughby Taylor-Alexander, Edward S. Dove, Isabel Fletcher, Agomoni Ganguli Mitra, Catriona McMillan, Graeme T. Laurie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Biomedicine and the life sciences continuously rearrange the relationship
between culture and biology. In consequence, we increasingly look for a
suitable regulatory response to reduce perceived uncertainty and instability.
This article examines the full implications of this ‘regulatory turn’ by drawing
on the anthropological concept of liminality. We offer the term ‘regulatory
compression’ to characterise the effects of extant regulatory approaches on
health research practices. With its focus on transformation and the
‘in-between’, liminality allows us to see how regulatory frameworks rely on a
silo-based approach to classifying and regulating research objects such that
they: (1) limit the flexibility necessary in clinical and laboratory research; (2)
result in the emergence of unregulated spaces that lie between the bounded
regulatory spheres; and (3) curtail modes of public participation in the health
research enterprise. We suggest there is a need to develop the notion of
‘processual regulation’, a novel framework that requires a temporal-spatial
examination of regulatory spaces and practices as these are experienced by
all actors, including the relationship of actors with the objects of regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-176
Number of pages28
JournalLaw, Innovation and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Health research
  • law
  • liminality
  • process
  • regulation

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