In 1997, the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Ethics programme was launched in the UK, with a strategy that sought to encourage bioethics research that married normative philosophical bioethics and social science methodologies. This paper explores a few of the children of this marriage, particularly those approaches that have been taken in an attempt to make this interdisciplinary marriage a happy one. We suggest that the dominant discourse has involved social science for bioethics, and sociology of bioethics, and we suggest further that neither of these approaches represent a happy and equal marriage. We then outline a third approach: social science in bioethics. Drawing upon our experiences of conducting such a project we describe the broad methodological approach that we have taken, and outline how, and why, this approach might be productive.
KEYWORDS: empirical bioethics, evidence-based bioethics, bioethics research, social science and bioethics.