Questioning the rhetoric of a 'willing population' in Finnish biobanking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

According to surveys and opinion polls, citizens in Nordic welfare societies have positive,supportive attitudes towards medical research and biobanking. In Finland, it was expected that this would result in the active biobank participation of patients and citizens. Indeed, public support has been rhetorically utilised as a unique societal factor and advantage in the promotion of Finnish biobanks, underlining the potential Finland offers for the international biomedical enterprise. In this paper, we critically analyse the use of notions such as ‘willing population’ and ‘engaged people’ in the promotion and legitimation of biobanking. First, there is a seeming contradiction between positive attitudes and actual participation rates, as biobanks have faced unexpected challenges in participant recruitment during the first years of their operations. As a result, the concept of a willing population was redirected to problematise the necessity of informed consent. Second, we question whether it is even meaningful to assume the existence of an informed and engaged population with regard to biobanking. Therefore, we suggest that it is problematic to talk about a willing population at the same time as the relevance of the informed consent system is being questioned by biobank actors and policy makers. We analyse this tension in relation to existing data on Finnish people’s attitudes, pointing out that positive, supportive views do not directly transform into high participation rates; nor do they justify the claims of policy makers and biobank proponents that people are willing to participate, when in fact surveys report that people know very little about biobanks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLife Sciences, Society and Policy
Volume15
Issue number4
Number of pages11
ISSN2195-7819
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology

Cite this

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title = "Questioning the rhetoric of a 'willing population' in Finnish biobanking",
abstract = "According to surveys and opinion polls, citizens in Nordic welfare societies have positive,supportive attitudes towards medical research and biobanking. In Finland, it was expected that this would result in the active biobank participation of patients and citizens. Indeed, public support has been rhetorically utilised as a unique societal factor and advantage in the promotion of Finnish biobanks, underlining the potential Finland offers for the international biomedical enterprise. In this paper, we critically analyse the use of notions such as ‘willing population’ and ‘engaged people’ in the promotion and legitimation of biobanking. First, there is a seeming contradiction between positive attitudes and actual participation rates, as biobanks have faced unexpected challenges in participant recruitment during the first years of their operations. As a result, the concept of a willing population was redirected to problematise the necessity of informed consent. Second, we question whether it is even meaningful to assume the existence of an informed and engaged population with regard to biobanking. Therefore, we suggest that it is problematic to talk about a willing population at the same time as the relevance of the informed consent system is being questioned by biobank actors and policy makers. We analyse this tension in relation to existing data on Finnish people’s attitudes, pointing out that positive, supportive views do not directly transform into high participation rates; nor do they justify the claims of policy makers and biobank proponents that people are willing to participate, when in fact surveys report that people know very little about biobanks.",
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Questioning the rhetoric of a 'willing population' in Finnish biobanking. / Snell, Karoliina; Tarkkala, Heta.

In: Life Sciences, Society and Policy, Vol. 15, No. 4, 27.05.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - According to surveys and opinion polls, citizens in Nordic welfare societies have positive,supportive attitudes towards medical research and biobanking. In Finland, it was expected that this would result in the active biobank participation of patients and citizens. Indeed, public support has been rhetorically utilised as a unique societal factor and advantage in the promotion of Finnish biobanks, underlining the potential Finland offers for the international biomedical enterprise. In this paper, we critically analyse the use of notions such as ‘willing population’ and ‘engaged people’ in the promotion and legitimation of biobanking. First, there is a seeming contradiction between positive attitudes and actual participation rates, as biobanks have faced unexpected challenges in participant recruitment during the first years of their operations. As a result, the concept of a willing population was redirected to problematise the necessity of informed consent. Second, we question whether it is even meaningful to assume the existence of an informed and engaged population with regard to biobanking. Therefore, we suggest that it is problematic to talk about a willing population at the same time as the relevance of the informed consent system is being questioned by biobank actors and policy makers. We analyse this tension in relation to existing data on Finnish people’s attitudes, pointing out that positive, supportive views do not directly transform into high participation rates; nor do they justify the claims of policy makers and biobank proponents that people are willing to participate, when in fact surveys report that people know very little about biobanks.

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