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Maureen Kelley


Professor of Bioethics

Maureen Kelley is Professor of Bioethics and Wellcome Senior Investigator at The Ethox Centre and Wellcome Centre for Ethics & Humanities in the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, specialising in ethics and women's and children's global health and international research ethics. Dr. Kelley is a moral philosopher and qualitative researcher by training and has worked for more than twenty years as a clinical ethics consultant and instructor of medical ethics in paediatrics, adolescent medicine, and obstetrics. 

Through qualitative empirical ethics research and ethical argument her research identifies and addresses practical ethical challenges that adversely impact the health of historically marginalised populations of women and children. That is, women and children who are more susceptible to poor health due to structural social, economic and political circumstances. Her research has been supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, The Greenwall Foundation, Medical Research Council, and The Wellcome Trust.

Much of Dr. Kelley’s research is conducted in collaboration with clinical researchers. Topics have included: prevention of prematurity and stillbirth, addressing the ethical and cultural barriers to home care for preterm infants in Uganda, the ethical inclusion of pregnant women in demonstration studies of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV) in Kenya, the management of maternal infection in contexts of antimicrobial resistance, development of ethical guidance for milk banking in intensive care units in low resource settings, and research aimed at improving survival and well-being of acutely ill and malnourished children ( 

Her current research is primarily focused on two projects sponsored by Wellcome: The REACH study, an embedded research ethics study on the ethics of research in contexts of structural vulnerability, and a new investigator award critically examining the role of gender in biomedical research: 

REACH - Resilience, empowerment and advocacy in women’s and children’s health research:  With colleagues from the Oxford-Wellcome Trust Africa Asia Programmes in Thailand, Kenya, and South Africa, Maureen leads a collaborative research project supported by the Wellcome Trust to examine the role of vulnerability and agency in research with women, children and families in low-resource settings. The prospective project linked local ethics researchers with six ongoing biomedical research studies in three countries over four years to better understand the ethical challenges of research in contexts of structural vulnerability, in the daily practice of research.

Equity & difference: deconstructing gender in health research for women: Despite policy changes and advocacy efforts to promote the inclusion of women as participants in research and to advance a global agenda of women’s sexual reproductive health over the past two decades, women remain significantly underrepresented in biomedical research and its translational outputs beyond reproductive health. In this empirical ethics project, we will investigate the reasons why structural barriers to women’s health improvements persist within the practices of research itself—in how research is designed, conducted, and translated. More deeply, we will interrogate the role that implicit and explicit moral attitudes, beliefs and arguments play in making the case for a focus on women’s and girl’s health needs, and in the reactions to these priority-setting appeals in academic, policy, and social media domains. Taken together this work aims to make a significant contribution to evidence-based advocacy within biomedical research practice, transforming how researchers think and do research with and for women and girls.

Dr. Kelley teaches in Oxford Medical Sciences Medical Ethics, Law & Professionalism Thread Course, Nuffield Department of Medicine MSc in International Health, and the Nuffield Department of Population Health MSc in Global Health, and lectures across the university. She is currently supervising three DPhil students: Rita Njeru, whose project is, Creating an evidence base for ethical and equitable access to human milk for vulnerable infants in resource-limited settings: an empirical ethics study in Kenya;  Jennifer Roest, whose project is, Critical investigation of the implementation of a gender transformative approach to sexual and reproductive health programming; and Mira Schneiders, whose project isEthics, caregiving and ageing: Case study in Cambodia.