Conveying Information, Generating Trust: The Role of Certifications in Biobanking

  • Matteo FerrariEmail author


The ability to communicate sound and reliable information is an imperative in modern societies. Markets flourish, thanks to the knowledge players are able to acquire and use; consumers base their purchasing decisions on the information they receive from producers and media; contractual counterparties are selected according to the expertise and knowledge they are able to show. Does the law take part in this process, facilitating the transmission of reliable information? The answer is obviously yes. On legal tool by which information is validated and transmitted is certification. Certifications are rapidly spreading as a flexible and effective way to disseminate knowledge: in turn, the disseminated data are characterized by a high degree of reliability and seem to be able to generate a bond of trust between the parties involved in the information exchange. Nowadays more and more private certification schemes are used in lieu of public controls, sparing resources and allowing for a higher degree of flexibility in the inspection process. We are shifting from a system where trust was generated by public institutions to one in which trust is the result of an activity carried out by private operators. The biobanks’ sector is no exception to these dynamics. The promising developments for the aetiopathogenesis and the treatment of diseases which can derive from sharing of data between biobanks determine the need to generate an environment characterized by mutual trust, thus facilitating the circulation of such data. This is especially true if we consider that biobanks can operate not only according to different standards and procedures, but also within different cultures which can influence the way such standards and procedures, per se similar, are implemented. In this article, I will deal more in detail with some of the points I have raised. In particular, in the first part of the paper I will describe the notion of certification, trying to provide an initial taxonomy in terms of functions and types; the second part will focus on how certification bodies can be made accountable for the services they provide; in the third part attention will be shifted to the biobanks’ context, adapting the general features of certifications described so far to the peculiar aspects characterizing biobanks. Finally, I will explore some of the possible benefits and problems that certifications can generate for the biobank domain.


Public Institution Mutual Trust Require Standard Certification Scheme Criminal Liability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Many thanks to Matteo Macilotti and Umberto Izzo for comments on an earlier draft of the paper. The usual caveats apply.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LawTech Research CentreUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  2. 2.Centre for Intellectual Property PolicyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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