Research ethics approval procedures and research ethics committees (RECs) are now well-established in most Western Universities. RECs base their judgements on an ethics code that has been developed by the health and biomedical sciences research community and that is widely considered to be universally valid regardless of discipline. On the other hand, a sizeable body of literature has emerged criticising the work of RECs, as, among other things, overly bureaucratic and unresponsive to the needs of disciplines outside the biomedical sciences. This article adopts the format of a debate between a Chair of a university REC and a social science researcher as a vehicle for contrasting different perspectives on research ethics. The fictional debate allows for a productive discussion between the two sides, incorporating key insights from the recent literature and concludes with a synthesis that sketches out some ideas about how university RECs can be made more responsive and accountable.