Genomics Forum · News
IntroductionFilmmakers-in-residence preview genomics-inspired documentaries.
The ESRC Genomics Forum has used its final engagement event to showcase the work resulting from its collaboration with two filmmakers-in-residence. The documentaries by Cameron Duguid and Lindsay Goodall have each received their premier screening at an event marking the conclusion of eight years of engagement work by the Genomics Forum.
Both filmmakers have been resident with the Forum since September 2012, and have been working with social and life scientists to research and develop documentaries that relate to the work of the ESRC Genomics Network. Cameron has produced Simply Complex - an animated exploration of how the development of our understanding of DNA has impacted the life sciences and wider society. Lindsay’s film – entitled East End Journey – focuses on the comparatively poor levels of health and reduced life expectancy experienced by residents of the east end of Glasgow, and the possible role of epigenetic factors in understanding this disparity.
Both documentaries received an extremely positive response from the audience present at the premier, which consisted of the staff and advisory board members from the Genomics Forum, representatives from the Genomics Network, and members of stakeholder groups that have worked with the Genomics Forum over the last eight years. Both documentaries will now be submitted to a number of international film festivals, thanks to the support of the Scottish Documentary Institute.
Speaking at the final Genomics Forum event, Forum Director said:
“I’m delighted that the work of the Genomics Forum is ending on a marked high, with the premier of the two superb documentaries that have been produced by the Forum’s filmmakers-in-residence. These films exemplify the way in which the Forum has, over the last eight years, used novel methods of engagement to interact with a wide range of stakeholder groups on the social implications of developments in the life sciences.
“I’m both proud and very pleased that the documentaries will be submitted to compete in film festivals, both in the UK and globally. Not only will this mean that these films will receive the wide audience they deserve, but it will also ensure the work of the Genomics Forum will live on beyond the formal completion of the initiative at the end of May 2013.”
The ESRC Genomics Forum and ESRC Genomics Network will both formally conclude on 31 May 2013. The Network’s three research Centres – Cesagen, Egenis, and Innogen – will continue beyond the conclusion of the Genomics Network, thanks to the support of the respective Universities that host these, and their success in attracting additional external funding
A legacy website, containing outputs from both the Genomics Forum and the Genomics Network, will be developed during summer 2013, and will before long be available at www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk.
IntroductionChristine Knight and Malcolm Smith examine implications of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
The ESRC Genomics Forum’s Senior Policy Research Fellow, Dr Christine Knight, and Visiting Research Fellow, Dr Malcolm Smith have seen their collaborative research work bear fruit, with the publication of a special issue of New Genetics and Society focusing on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
In 2011, the Genomics Forum organised a multidisciplinary workshop that examined the legal, political, and social issues resulting from the 2008 Act. The workshop was a culmination of work undertaken jointly by Dr Knight and Dr Smith – who is based at Queensland University of Technology, but was visiting the Genomics Forum as one of its Bright Ideas fellows.
Following the workshop, it became clear that there would be considerable benefit in exploring issues and outcomes associated with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in further detail and in a more formal academic context. This ultimately lead to the the production of the special issue of New Genetics and Society.
Speaking about the publication of the special issue, Christine Knight said:
“From the work Malcolm Smith and myself undertook, it became apparent that there would be considerable benefit and interest in undertaking a multidisciplinary examination of the issues and outcomes resulting from the consultation, legislative process and enactment of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
“Following the hosting by the Genomics Forum of a multidisciplinary workshop in 2011, the participants and organisers noted that although the literature existing at that time included a range of individual articles addressing specific areas of the 2008 Act, there was no collection (either as a journal special issue, or an edited book) that considered the legislation as a whole. This special issue of New Genetics and Society fills that gap.”
The special issue of the journal can be accessed online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cngs20/32/2#.UadssmfDlBm
IntroductionCabinet Office Deputy Director and poet-in-residence contribute to Forum’s work.
The ESRC Genomics Forum has recently welcomed the final participants in its Bright Ideas visiting research fellow programme. This programme has provided individuals with the opportunity to spend a period of time in residence at the Forum and pursue work tailored to their own interests that also contributes in some way to the aims and objectives of the Forum. Since 2005, over 100 visiting fellows have participated in the scheme.
Earlier this spring, the Genomics Forum was joined by Leon Feinstein, Deputy Director Cabinet Office (Chief Analyst in the Implementation Unit) and Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE. Dr Feinstein spent a his time as a Bright Ideas fellow reflecting on the question of “hereditarianism” and the relationship to it of Socioeconomic Status (SES) and child development, and discussing this meme with experts. This also provided the opportunity for Leon to discuss with and audience of scientists, social scientists, educationalists and members of the policy community the implications of work he has previously undertaken in this area. Details of his experience in relation to this can be found on his related blog post for Genotype.
In April and early May 2013 the Forum welcomed a Poet-in-Residence, Dr Samantha Walton, as its final Bright Ideas fellow. During her time at the Forum, Samantha – who is a Lecturer in literature and creative writing at Teeside University – explored the subject of epigenetics and its implications in light of critical social thought, issues of identity, innovative poetics and new media practices. Dr Walton also produced and open source poetry sequence, entitled TTAGGG, generated through contributions from delegates to the final ESRC Genomics Network conference, which took place in London at the end of April 2013.
IntroductionProfessor Iain Gillespie has been appointed as the new Director of Science for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
A long-time champion of the concept of the bioeconomy and green growth, Prof Gillespie previously spent ten years at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a Head of Division overseeing work on the convergence of biotechnology, nanotechnology and technology, as well as how to meet global challenges through science, technology and innovation.
He now brings this wealth of experience to NERC as their Director of Science, where he will be responsible for implementing and giving real direction to NERC’s new Science Strategy, as well as overseeing NERC’s responsive mode and programme funding. NERC research covers the whole range of environmental sciences, from earth system science, through living with environmental change, to ocean systems and biodiversity.
Prof Gillespie will also maintain his appointment as Visiting Professor at the Innogen Institute at the University of Edinburgh. He will continue working with Innogen particularly, though not exclusively, around how knowledge networking in the bioeconomy can help drive successful green growth, as well as on the strong interactions between environmental change and society.
In commenting on this new opportunity, Prof Gillespie said:
“Environmental science is fundamental to society at large, since it will ultimately shape the world that we all live in. We need to ensure that our future efforts in environmental science are delivered in a way that ensures the continued support of wider society and business, as well as the scientific community. Innogen has been at the core of delivering such a consensus and I foresee the need for even greater convergence between natural and social science in meeting our future aspirations.”
Prof Gillespie holds a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Edinburgh, an MA in International Relations and European Affairs from the University of Kent and an MBA from the Open University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Society of Biology.
Read more on the Innogen website: http://www.innogen.ac.uk/news.php?id=234
IntroductionSteve Yearley explores new avenues for engagement.
The first quarter of 2013 has seen ESRC Genomics Forum Director, Professor Steve Yearley, exploring varied avenues for stakeholder engagement.
Following on from meetings with government scientific advisers in February, in March Professor Yearley travelled to Cambridge University to take part in an event organised by The Triple Helix – a student society which explores interdisciplinary issues surrounding science, law and politics. Entitled Tackling Climate Change: Top-down or Bottom-up, Steve Yearley joined other experts – including a celebrated environmentalist and a leading biological scientist – on a panel that debated whether responses to climate change should best be led by governmental initiatives or changes from the ground up.
Professor Yearley has also had reviews of two recent book releases featured in high-profile publications.
His review of Clive Hamilton’s Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering was featured in 28 March edition of Times Higher Education. Hamilton’s book examines a divergence in approaches to tackling anthropogenic climate change: specifically, with the apparent failure of “plan A”, i.e. bringing about a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, an alternative “plan B” – where geo-engineering is used to ameliorate the impacts resulting from our changing climate – is considered increasingly attractive and viable.
Hamilton emphasises that we are nearer than is commonly perceived to being able to implement climate-engineering. This is deeply troubling for the author, not only because it means humanity has given up on addressing the causes of anthropogenic climate change, but also because our poor track record as custodians of the natural environment does not inspire confidence in terms of humankind’s ability to artificially manipulate the Earth’s climate.
Professor Yearley’s review concludes that Hamilton’s critical examination of the move towards geo-engineering makes for a “…smart and timely book” which “would be good for politicians to read ahead of voting on geo-engineering proposals, although sadly it ends without a compelling restatement of Plan A.”
In the February 2013 edition of Food Security, Professor Yearley provides a critique of Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, by Lester R Brown. Organised into 11 short chapters, this volume attempts to synthesise in an accessible way the background to the growing likelihood of world food problems, and is written not for the expert but for the reasonably informed and concerned citizen. The book covers themes which will be familiar to those working in the field of food security, including: problems of present day approaches to biofuels; how the increasing global demand for meat is impacting the availability of foodstuffs, such as grain; and the way in which the likely results of global climate change will tend to exacerbate food production problems.
In his review, Steve Yearley acknowledges that, the choice of issues covered in the book has been well made. However, there is one notable exception. The author makes almost no mention of genetic modification and other forms of genetic enhancement of plants, leading Yearley to conclude that “Given that so much of the world’s maize and soya beans and even rape-seed are already based on GM production, and given the prospects for much more far-reaching modification of cereal genomes, it seems a missed opportunity not to discuss this policy option.”
IntroductionAn innovative project fusing arts and science will get its first public airing at the Royal Society of Edinburgh today.
Lab Notes brings together a leading young composer of classical music, Dr Jane Stanley, with independent film maker Martin Clark to create a work inspired by a robot in a modern science laboratory.
Funded through a Scottish Crucible project grant, the short work for piano and accompanying film aims to challenge stereotypical conceptions of robots and increase engagement with contemporary classical music.
Dr Stanley and Mr Clark worked with systems biologist Dr Lorraine Kerr of SynthSys at the University of Edinburgh in creating the work. The robot at SynthSys is used by scientists investigating how the internal biological clock works, how plants respond to different environments, and understanding the causes and consequences of individual differences in the ageing process.
Dr Stanley, a member of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland and Lecturer in Music at the University of Glasgow, said:
"The experience of composing in an interdisciplinary context was new for me. It's already had an impact on my creative process in other compositions, and I'm excited to see how it will change my work in the future."
Dr Kerr commented: "I was delighted to be involved in this innovative project which portrays science in a totally different way and helps demystify what we do on a day to day basis."
The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, University of Edinburgh, helped facilitate the project and is producing the launch in association with the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, said:
"The Lab Notes project has created a striking contemporary classical music work and film, while giving new insight into modern biology and robotics. We've been excited to support this innovative dialogue between the arts and the sciences."
The free launch event for the composition and film is open to the public and takes place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-26 George Street, Edinburgh from 6pm on May 14th.
To book tickets, visit http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/events/ or phone 0131 240 2780.
Issued 25.04.2013: released 25.04.2013
IntroductionImpact of biotechnology upon society and science policy to be “put under the microscope”.
The impact that rapid and emerging developments within biotechnology has upon society and science policy will be “put under the microscope” when international policy makers, scientists and social scientists convene in London on 30 April and 1 May 2013.
At the Genomes and societies: Global challenges around life sciences conference – which is being organised by the ESRC Genomics Network – leading experts will consider how the fast pace of development in areas of the life sciences (including global health, food production, and the increasing cheapness and availability of genomic sequencing) has potential wide and far reaching implications for our society and economy.
The meeting will also examine how UK and international policy makers are responding to these challenges and opportunities through, for example, the development of new approaches such as “Responsible Innovation”.
The conference represents the culmination of the work of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Genomics Network initiative, which during the last decade has developed into the most significant global focus for social scientific research on genomics (the study of an organism’s genome) and the life sciences.
In addition to attracting prominent natural and social scientists, the event will also feature presentations from leading members of the international and UK policy community, including: the Chair of the House of Commons’ Select Committee on Science and Technology; the Head of Science and Technology Policy for the OECD; a former UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser; and a senior scientific advisor to the European Commission.
Speaking in advance of the event, conference organiser and Co-Director of the Genomics Network, Professor Steve Yearley said:
“It’s often forecast that the 21st century is destined to be the era of the life sciences, just as the 20th century was shaped by significant advances in information technology. Our understanding of genomics and cellular biology is ever increasing, potentially leading to significant developments in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and industry.
“Yet it’s essential we look beyond the technology itself and examine how this might influence our society and economy. What, for example, might be the impact upon consumers if it becomes commercially viable to culture artificial meat in the lab? And if someone could soon have their genome sequenced for a few hundred pounds, what might be the implications for their healthcare, or even whether they, or their relatives, can obtain life insurance covering certain genetically related diseases?
“The rapid rise of biotechnology presents both opportunities and challenges, and this meeting will showcase the social-scientific evidence in this area that is most relevant to policy makers, regulators and business leaders.”
IntroductionPippa Goldschmidt’s book runner-up in Dundee International Book Prize.
Former ESRC Genomics Forum Writer-in-Residence, , has this month published her first novel.
Entitled The Falling Sky, Pippa’s book tells the story of a young female astronomer who escapes the constraints of her professional and personal life in the UK by travelling to a mountain-top observatory in Chile. Here she makes a discovery that will not only challenge the fundamentals of the universe – thereby drawing her into conflict with the scientific establishment – but will also cast her back to the tragic loss that defined her childhood.
Pippa’s novel has already received substantial critical acclaim, coming runner up at the 2012 Dundee International Book Prize – the UK’s premier literary prize for debut novelists.
Stephen Fry, who was a judge of the Dundee International Book Prize 2012, described The Falling Sky as:
“A delicate and fascinating study of a life in which intellect and external microscopic and cosmic fields interact.”
Pippa was a Writer-in-Residence at the Genomics Forum from 2009-2010. During her residency, Pippa undertook a number of projects, including organising a poetry competition around the theme of genetics; producing “flash fictions” for the Forum’s Human Genre Project; and producing a briefing on Using Creative Writing to Promote Discussion about Genomics. She has also continued to work creatively with the Genomics Forum on a number of projects, post the formal completion of her residency.
Pippa will be a contributor to the Innovative strategies for engagement through the arts session, which forms part of the forthcoming 2013 Genomics Network Conference.
The Falling Sky is published by Freight Books, and is available now from all good book suppliers.
IntroductionCatherine Lyall speaks on "Genetic Transparency" at workshop funded by German Government.
Earlier this month, Forum Deputy Director, , contributed to a week-long, early career workshop on Genetic Transparency: Ethical and social implications of next generation human genomics and genetic medicine in Lübeck, Germany. Hosted by the Institute for the History of Medicine and Science Studies at the University of Lübeck, the workshop was part of a series of interdisciplinary study weeks on ethical, social and legal aspects of the modern life-sciences, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
The event attracted PhD candidates and post-docs in the fields of ethics, philosophy, social and political sciences, science & technology studies (STS) and medicine from across Europe. These early career researchers each presented on their own work and were offered perspectives from a series of guest speakers. Catherine spoke at the final session on “Norms and implications of governance”, taking the theme of good governance approaches and offering some suggestions for how we might move beyond the current limits to governance.
Speaking after the event, Catherine noted:
“As someone who completed a PhD part-time, while working, I really appreciate the value that concentrated study weeks such as this can offer. Coming in at the end of the week, I got the clear impression of a committed group of early career researchers who had really benefited from a week of reflective presentations and lively discussion.”
It’s hoped some of those attending the workshop will be able to gain further insight into the Genomics Network’s engagement with social and ethical issues around the life sciences, when these are discussed at the forthcoming EGN conference, which takes place in London on 30 April and 1 May 2013.
IntroductionPat Kane joined by other specialists in play, at Edinburgh International Science Festival event.
Pat Kane – author of The Play Ethic and frontman of celebrated Scottish band Hue and Cry – will be part of a panel of experts debating the importance of play to human development and the health of our society, at an event forming part of the 2013 Edinburgh International Science Festival.
Taking place on Wednesday 27 March at Teviot Row Debating Hall, will be introduced by Aileen Campbell MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People.
The event will consider recent scientific research that suggests the amount and quality of play experienced by a child could have an important impact upon their development and behaviour in later life, and even potentially influence mechanisms that govern rates of ageing.
Other panellists joining the debate include Professor Patrick Bateson - Emeritus Professor of Ethology, University of Cambridge, Wendy Russell - Senior Lecturer, Play & Playwork, University of Gloucestershire, and Alex Fleetwood - Director/Founder of play consultancy, Hide&Seek Productions.
Speaking in advance of the Why We Play event, Pat Kane said:
“There is a strong scientific argument that play has an important role in public health, being shown to help the neurological and physiological development of children. However, recent advances in the science of epigenetics – which literally means ‘beyond the genes’ – indicate that the way in which children are brought up can have a significant influence on the degree to which their genes are turned on or off, which may have life-long impacts.
“Play is obviously vital to the development of young people, but I also think it has an important role in later life. For adults, genuine playfulness is not merely about leisure – something you do after the daily grind – it can have a radical impact upon how we view the time, space and resources in our lives.”
Commenting on her attendance at the event, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, said:
“Play is an important part of a child’s development. That’s why last year the Scottish Government announced Scotland’s first ever National Play Strategy, supported with £3 million funding to provide opportunities and spaces for play in local communities across the country.
“The Why We Play event is a very welcome contribution to this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. We know it is important that children undertake quality play as part of their healthy development and research suggests that play and recreation also have benefits later in life.”
IntroductionEvent to examine how digital technology is resulting in the “evaporation” of real “things”
Natural and social scientists, digital technologists, and artists are meeting in Edinburgh on 13 and 14 March to discuss if the vast amounts of data about living organisms – including humans – that is now stored on computers are transforming the way we think about and value the living “things” themselves.
symposium – which is being jointly organised ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum; the Centre for Design Informatics; and New Media Scotland – will consider the way in which living things are being increasingly digitised and the impact this might have upon science, culture and creativity.
Speaking in advance of the symposium, Dr Maria Grade Godinho, research fellow with the ESRC Genomics Forum, and event co-organiser, commented:
“In recent years science has been prolific in seemingly bringing about the “evaporation” of living things into digital data, as demonstrated by the decoding of the human genome. This digitisation of life is also enabling scientists to potentially create innovative living entities, such as genetically modified organisms, and even to potentially enhance the human body with cyber-technologies.”
Event co-organiser Dr Chris Speed, reader in Digital Spaces at Edinburgh College of Art, added:
“The evaporation of life-forms into digital data not only has implications for scientists and technologist, but also for the way that society perceives organisms. Our event will bring together artists and designers, as well as scientists and other scholars, to share knowledge and understanding on the way living things are being digitally represented, and to examine the potential impacts of the blurring of the boundaries between real things and their data-based representations.”
The symposium takes place at the University of Edinburgh’s Inspace Laboratory on 13 and 14 March. Anyone wishing to take part in the event can register for a place via a dedicated website - http://evaporationofthings.eventbrite.com.
IntroductionForum Director involved in chief scientific advisor events.
February has seen the Genomics Forum actively engage with the work of senior scientific advisors to both the UK and Scottish Governments.
In mid-February, Genomics Forum Director, , was invited to address the Public Involvement Group of the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office (CSO), to speak on the topic of “Genomics and Society” and the work of the Genomics Network. Members of the Public Engagement Group sit on CSO committees and participate in reviews undertaken by the Office. Events, such as the one Professor Yearley spoke at, are used to keep members of the group up-to-date with current scientific issues and related research, in order to help inform their work.
At the end of the month, Professor Yearley was also invited to attend the Scottish Consortium for Rural Research’s annual Peter Wilson Lecture, which this year was given by Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Professor Boyd was speaking about the work he undertakes advising policy-makers on issues relating to the environment and agriculture, and about moves to science-led policy making.
Commenting on his recent engagement with government scientific advisors, Steve Yearley said:
“I was delighted to be invited to speak to the CSO Public Involvement Group. Members of the group are clearly both knowledgeable of, and engaged with, the important role played by scientific advice in guiding policy development, and were keen to learn about the role of the social sciences in understanding the impact advances in life sciences are having upon society.
“Equally, it was fascinating to be given an insight into the approach taken by senior scientific advisors, when listening to Professor Ian Boyd talk about his work as Chief Scientific Advisor to DEFRA.
“The Genomics Network has always welcomed the opportunity to engage with those working at the interface between science and policy, and this is a theme we will be exploring further at the final Network conference, which take place at the end of April.”
For further information on the ESRC Genomics Network Conference – Genomes and societies: Global challenges around life sciences – can be found at the following page on the Network’s website: www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/forum/conf2013.
IntroductionForum’s latest Visiting Fellows hail from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Scottish Parliament.
As part of its on-going Bright Ideas programme, the ESRC Genomics Forum has recently welcomed Visiting Research Fellows hailing from the Scottish Parliament and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The programme provides an exciting opportunity for individuals to spend a period of time – anything between a few days and two months – in residence at the Forum. It offers visiting fellows time and space to undertake a programme of work tailored to their own interests that also contributes in some way to the Forum's aims and objectives.
Jude Payne is the Senior Researcher in Health and Social Care at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre. He supports the functioning of the Parliament by providing information on health and social care issues to both individual Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), and parliamentary committees. During his Bright Ideas residency, Jude will be examining how medical devices are regulated by the UK and EU, and the implications this might have for the use of such devices by health service providers.
Dr Stephanie Dyke works as Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Formerly a leader in the Human Genome Project, the Institute is now focused on understanding the role of gene function in health and disease. During her time at the Forum, Stephanie is focusing on policy developments in relation to data sharing and data protection in genomic research. She will engage with social scientists from across the Genomics Network in order to research, and increase understanding of, the social and ethical ramifications of the management of genetic data.
Commenting on the latest Bright Ideas Visiting Research Fellows, – Genomics Forum Deputy Director – said:
“We are delighted to welcome both Jude and Stephanie to the Forum as the latest participants in our Bright Ideas programme. The topics that they are each researching are extremely socially relevant and current, and given that both researchers are professionally engaged in the policy arena, we are very much looking forward to considering the outputs from their research work.
“It has always been the aim of the Bright Ideas programme to engage with contributors from across a range of organisations and sectors, to enable them to undertake research that builds upon their personal and professional interests, and that contributes to a greater understanding of the societal impacts resulting from developments within the life sciences. I think the work being undertaken by our latest Bright Idea fellows demonstrates how pertinent and beneficial such research can be.”
In addition to undertaking their respective research projects, both Visiting Research Fellows will be contributing to Genotype – the Genomics Forum blog.
Stephanie Dyke will also be delivering a seminar on Data Protection and Sharing, as part of the Mason Institute’s event series. This will take place at 12.30pm on Wednesday 27 February 2012, in the seminar room of the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, High School Yards, University of Edinburgh. To register for the event please visit the dedicated Eventbrite website - http://dataprotectionandsharing.eventbrite.com/ .
Please note that the above is a change of venue from that originally listed. Due to building works, please access High School Yards via the Drummond Street entrance.
IntroductionIsabel Fletcher and Catherine Lyall co-edit journal on "Investing in Interdisciplinarity"
The latest edition (Volume 40 Issue 1 February 2013) of the prestigious social science journal Science and Public Policy has been largely dedicated to a special section edited by ESRC Genomics Forum Research Fellows, and .
Entitled Investing in Interdisciplinarity, the section examines the opportunities and challenges around an interdisciplinary approach to addressing social issues. It consists of eight papers from leading social science researchers – including a number of academics from the ESRC Genomics Network – and features a lead paper co-authored by Dr Fletcher and Dr Lyall entitled Experiments in interdisciplinary capacity-building: The successes and challenges of large-scale interdisciplinary investments.
Other papers in the special section of the journal cover topics that include: regional innovation policies; global challenges of biological knowledge for health and agriculture; new horizons for law and social science; and participatory interdisciplinary.
The section concludes with a paper that considers The role of funding agencies in creating interdisciplinary knowledge, for which Dr Lyall is the lead contributor.
The full February 2013 edition of Science and Public Policy can be accessed online at:
IntroductionEugénia Rodrigues and Steve Yearley to be co-investigators in a major new research initiative.
Two of the ESRC Genomics Forum’s researchers are among a team of academics from the University of Edinburgh who have received a responsive-mode award from the ESRC for an innovative investigation into the “the politics of monitoring”.
Genomics Forum Director, Professor Steve Yearley, and Forum Research Fellow, Dr Eugénia Rodrigues, will form part of a group of co-investigators – led by Professor Christina Boswell from Edinburgh University’s Department of Politics and International Relations, and also including Dr Graham Spinardi, Senior Research Fellow at STIS – that will embark on the three year research project in April 2013.
The project relates to the politics of monitoring. Specifically, it will examine the way in which assessments – made by independent bodies, think-tanks, commentators or experts – are used by officials, politicians and the media to determine how performance actually relates to targets set in a number of varying policy areas in the UK. These areas include: climate-changing emissions; defence procurement; and immigration.
The research will investigate how information derived from such monitoring is used in the assessment, implementation and potential reformulation of policy within these fields. The Economic and Social Research Council is supporting the project with a significant award, totalling around £325,000 (equivalent to over £400,000 at full economic costs).
Speaking about the new research project, Steve Yearley said:
“This research will provide invaluable insights into how public policy in key areas such as climate change, defence and immigration responds to and is influenced by independent assessment of its effectiveness.
“It is exciting to be working with such esteemed colleagues from across the University of Edinburgh in investigating the importance of the politics of monitoring, and we are extremely grateful that the Economic and Social Research Council has recognised the importance and innovative nature of our work in this area by supporting the project over a three year period.”
IntroductionVisiting Research Fellow organises “sell-out” workshop as part of “Innovative Learning Week”.
The ESRC Genomics Forum is set to explore how factual scientific writing can be made as creative and engaging as possible, thanks to the work of one of its Bright Ideas Visiting Research Fellows (VRFs).
As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week, science writer and editor, Barbara Melville, will be leading a day-long workshop exploring creative writing techniques that can be used to engage the public in facts about the life sciences. The event – which takes place on Thursday 21 February 2013 – will focus on how the creative principles behind works of scientific fiction can potentially be applied to scientific fact, in order to bring information about biosciences to life.
The workshop has proved so popular amongst its target audience of students, scientists and science communicators that all available places have been filled, and consideration is therefore being given to hosting similar events in the future. It’s anticipated that some of the creative, factual science writing produced by participants in the initiative will ultimately be featured on Genotype – the Genomics Forum blog.
Speaking about the workshop, Bright Ideas fellow Barbara Melville said:
“The life sciences are developing rapidly, resulting in many discoveries that could have significant impacts for society. But all too often the science behind these important advances is seen as either boring or unfathomable.
“As a scientific journalist, who also has a background in fictional literature, it became apparent to me that it might be possible to apply some of the techniques used in developing fiction to bring a different approach to factual science writing. I hope the workshop will demonstrate that writing about science doesn’t have to be staid, and it is possible to make even complex scientific information accessible to a wide public audience.”
As well as undertaking a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Genomics Forum during February 2013, Barbara is also currently Writer-in-Residence at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Edinburgh. Following on from the workshop, she hopes to develop a dedicated website that specialises in supporting and publishing creative, non-fiction science writing.
IntroductionSteve Yearley in the running for Edinburgh University Students’ Association prize
– Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum – has been nominated in the “Best Research or Dissertation Supervisor “category of the Edinburgh University Students’ Association Teaching Awards 2012-2013.
Held annually since 2009, the awards are designed to recognise and reward those academics who are committed to delivering great teaching for their students. The award scheme is the first in the UK to be entirely created and run by students, and has encouraged several other Student Associations to create their own versions of the initiative.
Since joining the University of Edinburgh, Professor Yearley has successfully supervised the research of a number of doctoral students, in addition to providing strategic direction to the work of the Genomics Forum.
Commenting on his nomination for a teaching award, Steve Yearley said:
“I am both surprised and delighted to be nominated for a teaching award for my supervision of doctoral research, not least because the award scheme itself is entirely driven by the students of Edinburgh University.
“It really is a great honour to have one’s work – in guiding the development of the next generation academic researchers – recognised in this way. I shall most certainly be wearing my badge – identifying me as an award nominee – with pride.”
The winners of the Teaching Awards will be announced at a ceremony that will take place in Edinburgh on 3 April 2013.
IntroductionExhibits from Surgeons’ Hall Museum “brought to life” at public event
The moving, and often untold, stories of the lives of people whose remains were donated to Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall Museum will be recounted at a public event taking place at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Lecture Theatre, at 18:30hrs on Tuesday 12 February.
Tell them our stories will feature Ann Lingard (novelist, and scientist), Andrew Connell (Collections Manager at the Surgeons' Hall Museum) and Diana Hendry (poet and Costa-shortlisted children's novelist), who will use readings from their works, both factual and part-fiction, to illustrate the human stories of exhibits featured in the collection, and how these continue to be relevant today.
The event follows on from work undertaken by Ann Lingard as a visiting research fellow at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, where she researched and then wrote the life stories of several of the people who donated their skeletons or organs to the anatomical collection held at Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall. Ann’s stories – together with factual accounts of the way we now treat the collection of tissue and organs for the purposes of teaching and transplants – have been published on the Genomics Forum website.
Speaking in advance of Tuesday’s event, Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, commented:
“In writing Tell them our stories Ann Lingard has been able to reveal the moving, and often tragic, background stories of those whose remains have found their way into anatomical collections, such as that hosted at the Surgeons’ Hall Museum.
“All too often, such collections are now considered upsetting and are misunderstood by our medically-advanced society. But they have been hugely important for the development of our understanding of anatomy and for provoking reflection on the ethics of donation.
“I’m delighted that the Tell them our stories event will provide an opportunity for the public to hear about the real lives of those now represented as exhibits, as well as the importance of anatomical collections in the story of medicine and the social history that surrounds it.”
IntroductionCome along and watch our conservation-themed pantomime!
A group of young people from North Edinburgh are set to become exponents for nature conservation, thanks to the culmination of an innovative project involving The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh-based Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Lyceum Youth Theatre Discover Programme, North Edinburgh Arts and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
The young people – aged between 9 and 12, and from the Muirhouse, Pilton and Granton areas of Edinburgh – have been working with conservation experts to learn about the importance of saving endangered species and habitats. The project – which is unique in its involvement of Edinburgh’s leading academic, conservation, and performing arts organisations – will culminate with the young people informing their local communities about conservation issues, through the performance - on Saturday 26 January - of a pantomime they have developed with the support of North Edinburgh Arts. The children will also undertake a “behind the scenes” visit to Edinburgh Zoo as part of the project, in order to learn about endangered animals first hand.
Speaking in advance of Saturday’s conservation-themed pantomime, project coordinator Naomi Webster – who is currently a visiting research fellow at Edinburgh University’s ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, and works as Education Officer for the Jersey-based Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, said:
“Young people have a natural interest in animals and wildlife, but often don’t realise just how endangered many creatures are or how organisations like Durrell and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland are working to save them from extinction. This project has enabled us to work with children in an innovative way to help them appreciate the importance of nature conservation, and to allow them to show their families and communities what they have learnt, by producing and performing their own conservation-themed pantomime.”
Commenting on the innovative nature of the project, Kate Wimpress, Director of North Edinburgh Arts, said:
“North Edinburgh Arts works with young people throughout North Edinburgh, through creative initiatives such as drama workshops, to encourage them to explore issues and develop understanding. Collaborating with the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Zoo and the Lyceum Youth Theatre on this initiative has enabled us to help young people to gain a greater understanding of conservation in an engaging, yet fun way.
“I know our young performers are very excited about both their trip to the zoo, and producing and performing their own conservation-themed pantomime.”
IntroductionForum Fellow convenes scientists, social scientists and policy professionals, to facilitate foresight on regulation.
The ESRC Genomics Forum will today [Wednesday 16 January 2013], host a workshop that will consider whether existing models of risk/safety assessment are adequate to address the regulation of new products resulting from emerging and converging technologies, such as synthetic biology.
The workshop has been convened by Genomics Forum Visiting Research Fellow Dr Peter Kearns, who is the Principal Administrator of the Environment, Health and Safety Programme at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Today’s event will bring together UK and international scientists and social scientists in order to consider the differing, current models of exchanging data amongst regulatory authorities, based on existing methods of risk assessment. It will then go on to address whether or not such methods will be applicable to new and emerging technologies using Synthetic Biology (together with related converging technologies) as a case study.
Speaking in advance of the workshop, Dr Peter Kearns said:
“Globally, different legal systems are often quite distinct in their approach to issues relating to new and emerging chemical and biological technologies. Despite these distinctions, there are methods by which safety data used in the risk assessment of a product in one jurisdiction can be used in others.
“It is important that such products are shown to be safe from a human health and environmental safety perspective, if they are to be accepted by society. Even though regulatory regimes may vary internationally, it may be possible to develop methods whereby safety data used in the risk assessment of a new product in one jurisdiction can be used in others. This could potentially lead to greater harmonisation in the way health and environmental safety data is generated, and produce greater efficiencies in regulatory processes.”
Genomics Forum Deputy Director, – who coordinates the Forum’s Visiting Research Fellow programme, commented:
“Through our Visiting Research Fellow programme, the Genomics Forum seeks to work collaboratively with individuals from across a range of organisations and disciplines to encourage new approaches to issues around the life sciences, and our economy and society.
“The Genomics Forum has a considerable background of working productively with the OECD, in order to consider socio-economic aspects of emerging areas within the life sciences. I am delighted that we have been able to host Dr Peter Kearns as a Visiting Research Fellow during the last few months, and believe that today’s workshop will contribute to a greater understanding between social scientists, other academics and those involved in the regulation of emerging and converging technologies at the international level.”
IntroductionGenomics Forum staff talk about their research in 1 minute videos.
The University has recently recorded a collection of more than 400 1 minute research videos from across all three colleges.
In each video a member of academic staff tells something about their research - the variety spans all interests from art, divinity, education, engineering, informatics and astronomy through to neuroscience, genetics and veterinary medicine. Lab results, historical documents, social issues, climate change, technological developments and artistic practices are just some of the exciting topics discussed.
Each video is accompanied by additional background information with links to related videos and websites. You can also search for staff members, research topics and keywords, as well as browse by research centre, institute, school and college. More videos are being added weekly.
Research in a Nutshell originated as fun way to encourage collaborations between academic staff, by helping colleagues learn about each other's research. But, as the collection grew and diversified, it became obvious these interesting stories would have wider appeal, both inside and outside the University.
To view this eclectic compilation, please visit the dedicated website: www.ed.ac.uk/research/nutshell-videos
The project has been developed by a team in the School of Informatics, led by Prof. Robert Fisher: "The best thing about these videos is they show how much exciting research our staff are doing on the issues that interest and matter to people today."
Funding for this collection was from the UK's EPSRC and the University of Edinburgh.
*Thanks to Prof. Robert B. Fisher and Siri Rodnes for the above information*
IntroductionBlogs and photographs of the OECD/Genomics Forum event published.
The OECD and the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum jointly organised a one-day “Global Forum” in Paris on 12 November 2012, entitled
The event was both retrospective and forward-looking. It considered if historic breakthroughs in life sciences – such as the cloning of Dolly the Sheep and the mapping of the human genome – have produced the economic and societal impacts originally anticipated. Focusing upon recently emerging sectors and developments within biotechnology, the Global Forum also examined what can be learnt about the way expectations surrounding developing technologies shape the products and services these deliver to market.
The Global Forum concluded that the promise of biotechnology is not static, but evolves with fresh scientific knowledge, novel and appropriate regulation, and that – in order to realise its full potential – the future of biotechnology needs to also integrate social and cultural dimensions.
Blogs from each session of the event – produced by Genomics Forum staff – can be found on Genotype – the Genomics Forum blog-space.
Photographs from the event can be found on the Forum’s Flickr page.br />
Speaker presentations from the Global Forum can be found on the dedicated section of the OECD website.
A summary report of the Global Forum event will be made available in the near future.
IntroductionSteve Yearley reviews Dieter Helm’s book – on how we’re getting climate change wrong – for the Times Higher Education magazine.
The Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, Professor Steve Yearley has reviewed the latest book from Dieter Helm – entitled The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong - and How to Fix It – on behalf of the Times Higher Education magazine.
Dieter Helm is a Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford. He specialises in the economics of utilities, regulation and the environment, and has assisted the European Commission in preparing its Energy Roadmap 2050.
In The Carbon Crunch Professor Helm looks at how and why, since the establishment of 1997’s Kyoto Protocol, we have failed to tackle the issue of global warming and argues for a new, pragmatic rethinking of energy policy.
In his review in the Times Higher Education magazine, Professor Yearley comments:
“Dieter Helm argues that The Kyoto Protocol has not brought about any overall worldwide diminution in greenhouse-gas emissions - far from it - and there are no agreements in place that are likely to address this fact any time soon. And among the key reasons for this, he says, are economic ones.
“His ‘fix’ is: hasten the switch to gas through a carbon tax - to get out of coal - and then wait for investments in the next generation of renewables to pay off. Given his merciless view of existing policies, his solution appears lacking in detail and political realism. But this is a provocative analysis and well worth the discomfort it will likely engender.”
Professor Yearley’s full review can be accessed on the THE website.
The Carbon Crunch is published by Yale University Press.
IntroductionSteve Yearley to speak at leading international genomics conference
ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum Director, , will be heading to Ottawa, Canada in late November 2012, where he will speak at the Genomics: the Power and the Promise international conference.
The conference, which is organised jointly by the Gairdner Foundation and Genome Canada, is an examination of state-of-the-science which will bring together a raft of international experts to consider and mark the accomplishments and advancement of genomics.
The event features an impressive array of world-class speakers, who will provide a critical look at scientific progress and achievement in a variety of disciplines, including: evolutionary genomics, cancer, epigenomics, pharmacogenomics, biofuels, environmental remediation, fisheries & aquaculture, and food security and safety.
Professor Yearley will contribute to the section of the conference considering issues relating to environmental genomics.
Introduction“The Observer” publishes article on issues raised in marine biotech session
The recent Global Forum on The Evolving Promise of the Life Sciences – which took place in Paris on 12 November and was jointly organised by the OECD and the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum – has received substantial coverage in The Observer newspaper.
Opportunities and issues around developments in the field of marine biotechnology featured in one of the five plenary sessions of the Global Forum, and were explored in an article published in the newspaper on the eve of the conference, entitled Marine 'treasure trove' could bring revolution in medicine and industry.
The full page piece – which was written by The Observer’s Science Editor, Robin McKie – featured contributions from Professor Curtis Suttle, from the University of British Columbia, on the “almost infinite” potential for marine biotechnology, and from Genomics Forum Director, Professor Steve Yearley, on the challenges (such as international regulation) associated with identifying and developing marine biotechnology products.
It is intended that a summary report on the full Global Forum will be published on the Genomics Forum website in the near future.
IntroductionLeading experts in life and social sciences consider perspectives on historic and evolving biotechnological developments.
Changing perceptions of what the biotechnology revolution has delivered during the last 30 years, and the impact current perspectives might have on the future evolution of the life sciences, will be considered by leading life and social scientists when they gather in Paris on Monday 12 November 2012.
The Evolving Promise of the Life Sciences Global Forum, organised jointly by the OECD and the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, will consider if historic breakthroughs in life sciences – such as the cloning of Dolly the Sheep and the mapping of the human genome – have produced the economic and societal impacts originally anticipated. Focusing upon recently emerging sectors and developments within biotechnology, the Global Forum will then examine what can be learnt about the way expectations surrounding developing technologies shape the products and services these deliver to market.
The Global Forum will commence with a keynote address from the Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission – Professor Anne Glover – on the current policy agenda and its influence on developments within the life sciences. The event will also feature sessions on key, current biotechnological developments spanning; health and biomedicine; industrial and synthetic biology; marine biotechnology; and the response to emerging pathogens.
Speaking as the Global Forum convened, the Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, Professor Steve Yearley, said:
“There is no doubt that the life sciences potentially offer great economic, social and environmental benefits, perhaps representing a third global revolution following on from the industrial and information technology revolutions of previous centuries.
“But it is important to assess the kinds of expectations we have for biotechnologies and to understand that the regulatory, legal and institutional aspects of these new technologies are as critical as the scientific advances themselves.”
Also commenting on the significance of the Global Forum, the Chair of the OECD’s Working Party on Biotechnology, Professor Gerardo Jiménez-Sánchez, said:
“The OECD’s interest in biotechnology extends beyond the science itself. It also encompasses the potential socio-economic implications of this rapidly developing sector.
“The Global Forum is an opportunity for us to analyse and learn from historic developments in biotechnology. These lessons can then be applied when developing areas of the life sciences, maximising potential benefits in areas such as synthetic biology and averting or mitigating the negative socio-economic impacts of new pathogens.”
Introduction2012 programme for Biomedical Ethics Film Festival announced.
What would it mean for people if scientists claimed to have proved that our actions were not the product of freewill, but rather resulted from the unique biological and chemical make up of each of our brains? Would we have to reconsider ethical judgements relating to the actions of individuals, and the boundaries set by society? Film-goers will be invited to explore and debate such issues around neuroscience, human behaviour and ethics at the 2012 Biomedical Ethics Film Festival – this year branded the Neuro-Ethics Film Festival – which will take place at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 November 2012.
The Festival will feature a range of stimulating neuro-ethically themed films and documentaries, which include: Limitless (2011) a revealing tale of the potential benefits and perils of brain enhancement, staring Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro; the genre-setting The Matrix (1999) featuring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne; the classic Manchurian Candidate (1962) which portrays brain-washing during the Korean War; and Stanley Kubrick’s challenging portrayal of moral degeneration and mental reprogramming, A Clockwork Orange (1971). Also forming part of the Festival programme will be a “double bill” screening of two BBC Horizon documentaries: Out of Control (2011), and The Secret You (2009).
Following each screening the audience will have the opportunity to debate issues raised in the film with an expert panel. Experts participating in these discussions include: former Bishop of Edinburgh, The Rt Rev. Brian Smith; leading author of medical ethics fiction, Dr Hazel McHaffie; and the Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics, Dr Martyn Pickersgill.
Speaking ahead of the Festival, the Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, said:
“Scientific developments mean our understanding of the human brain is ever increasing. But this knowledge might ultimately raise questions about the degree to which human behaviour is a product of our conscious choices, or results from the biology and chemistry of our brains. The Neuro-Ethics Film Festival provides an ideal opportunity for audiences to consider how such insight into the functioning of people’s minds might have implications not only for the individual, but society as a whole.”
Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research for the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, and Festival co-ordinator commented:
“Questions around morality, social responsibility, and what governs human behaviour have always been important subjects for filmmakers. The films screened during our Festival all raise questions about the degree to which we have free will, the extent to which our behaviour is ultimately controlled by our biological brains, and the ethical implications that result from this. The discussions that follow each film – featuring experts in medicine, biology, sociology and ethics – will allow audiences to consider further the degree to which our biology influences our behaviour and what the consequences of this might be.”
Commenting on the involvement of the Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law, in the Festival, Institute Deputy Director Dr Shawn Harmon said:
“New scientific knowledge and debates around the relationship between neurobiology, human free will and individual behaviour could have profound implications for how the law is understood and how it is applied. These subjects are highly relevant to the emerging work of the Mason Institute and we are therefore delighted to be supporting the Neuro-Ethics Film Festival for the first time in 2012.
“Members of the institute will undertake an active role in the wider discussions relating to the films that make up the Festival programme and we look forward to continued future involvement in the Festival.”
Rod White, Head of Programming for Filmhouse, Edinburgh noted:
“Film provides an ideal medium through which to study human behaviour and the implications this has upon wider society. Our programming at the Filmhouse frequently sets out to stimulate debate and increase understanding of important ethical issues, and that is why we are once again delighted to host the Bioethics Film Festival. The films that make up this year’s Festival consider many facets of neuro-ethics, and the moral implications that accompany them. By also encouraging audiences and experts to debate the issues portrayed in each screening, the Festival will further enhance engagement with the subjects they consider.”
The film festival is organised in partnership with: (1) the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics – www.schb.org.uk, (2) Filmhouse, Edinburgh – www.filmhousecinema.com/ (3) The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum – www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/forum and (4) the Mason Institute, Law School, The University of Edinburgh – http://masoninstitute.org/.
For full information on the programme and panellists, visit: www.filmhousecinema.com/seasons/neuroethics-film-festival-2012
For ticket information - Visit Filmhouse website or contact Filmhouse Box Office on: 0131 228 2688 (Open from 10am - 9pm daily).
IntroductionGenomics Forum photographer's work appears at exhibition celebrating UK social sciences.
The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Fourm is delighted to announce that the work of its Photographer-in-Residence is to form part of the ESRC Celebrating Portraits of Britain exhibition.
Georgina Wood was appointed as the ESRC Genomics Forum Photographer in Residence from June to August 2012. During her residency, Georgina explored a number of areas of the Genomics Forum's work in relation to the impact of the life sciences on society, culminating in a series of photographs documenting the emergence and evolution of bio-fuels within the UK. Three of Georgina's photographs relating to this subject were entered into the "environment" category of the ESRC 2012 Portraits of Britain photography competition, which celebrates UK social sciences.
One of Georgina's competition entries has been short-listed for exhibition, and will be showcased at the Celebrating Portraits of Britain exhibition (the ESRC’s 2012 flagship Festival of Social Science event) at the Strand Gallery, London on 8-11 November 20012.
The Gemomics Forum hosts an artist in residence programme - including photographers, authors, playwrights and filmmakers - to engage the public in issues around social science and genomics as part of its initiative.
IntroductionBiotechnology at centre of Genomics Forum and Innogen Festival of Social Science Event.
The importance of a biotechnology revolution to Scotland’s economy and engaging young people’s interest in the life sciences will form the centrepiece of a major event taking place in Edinburgh on Saturday 10 November 2010.
The Revolution Will Be Bio-Based… – which is organised by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum and ESRC Innogen Centre, and forms part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science – is a free, fun and interactive event which will combine practical bio-science demonstrations and exhibitions with discussion sessions on the future direction of the life sciences.
Topics up for consideration in TED style discussions, each featuring an expert panel, include:
- Could DIY-Bio ignite young people’s interest in the life sciences?
- How important is biotechnology to rebuilding the UK’s economy?
- Could Scotland, the country which gave the world “Dolly” the cloned sheep, potentially be leader in a global revolution in the life sciences?
Biotechnology demonstrations will allow those attending the opportunity to experience life science techniques first hand, and will include making a microbial fuel cell, and extracting DNA from a strawberry. There will also be exhibitions on the work of Scotland’s ground-breaking life sciences research centres.
Speaking in advance of the The Revolution Will Be Bio-Based, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, , said:
“The world is currently experiencing a biotechnology revolution, akin to the industrial and information-technology revolutions of previous centuries. Biotechnology is increasingly important to both Scotland’s economy and society, with many recent advances in the life sciences – such as the cloning of Dolly the Sheep – resulting from Scottish-based research.
“However, with developments in biotechnology happening so quickly, Scotland cannot afford to rest on its laurels. This event will provide an opportunity to discuss how we should look to develop Scottish life sciences in the future, in order to maximise their benefit to Scotland’s society and economy. It will also enable young people to explore exactly how engaging biotechnology – including DIY-bio – can be, which is highly important if we are going to develop Scotland as a world leader in the life sciences.”
The Revolution Will Be Bio-Based takes place from 1pm-5pm on Saturday 10 November, at the University of Edinburgh’s Appleton Tower, Crichton Street, Edinburgh. All discussions and demonstrations are free, but it is recommended that places be reserved in advance, via http://revolutionwillbebiobased.eventbrite.co.uk/, in order to avoid disappointment.
IntroductionLeading authors to discuss how the life sciences influence their work.
How accurately does modern literature portray the life sciences? In what way is the use of science within fiction evolving to create new genres such as “lab-lit”? Is there more in common, than is often imagined, between the way in which both writers and scientists work?
These are some of the fascinating topics that are up for discussion in an afternoon of fact and fiction examining how fiction portrays life sciences and genetics. The event is being produced by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, in conjunction with the Scottish Storytelling Centre, on Saturday 3 November 2012.
Cell Culture will feature participants including: Dr Jennifer Rohn, cell biologist, editor of Lablit.com and author of Experimental Heart and The Honest Look; Ken MacLeod, celebrated science fiction author; and Pippa Goldschmidt, short story writer and former writer-in-residence at the Genomics Forum. The authors will read from their work before engaging in a public discussion which will be chaired Professor Stuart Monro, Scientific Director of Dynamic Earth.
Further information on this engaging event, including how to obtain tickets, can be found of the Events section of the Genomics Forum website.
IntroductionGenomics Forum announces diverse and engaging events for the autumn.
The has today [Friday 5 October] announced its autumn 2012 season of events. These will cover topics as diverse as: tackling global pandemics in the age of social media; how modern fiction authors represent science in their work; and whether encouraging young people into careers in the life sciences could help make Scotland a bio-technology world leader.
The programme commences with the Café Scientifique event - taking place at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Café on 23 October 2012 – which will examine how cultural anxieties about pandemics, such as 2009’s “swine” flu outbreak and the continuing threat posed by the SARS virus, are increasingly being shaped by globalisation and developments in digital media and surveillance technologies.
Event speaker, and Genomics Forum visiting research fellow, Professor Marina Levina, said:
“Modern digital technology means that we increasingly respond to the threats from disease pandemics very differently to how we would have done a decade ago. This event will examine how the way we deal with pandemics is no longer about policing national boundaries, but rather about managing flows of information and bodies across the globe.”
On Saturday 3 November, Cell Culture will feature both fact and fiction in an event – taking place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre – that examines how modern literature portrays life sciences and genetics. Leading authors – including: celebrated science fiction writer ; biologist, editor of Lablit.com, and author of Experimental Heart Dr Jennifer Rohn; and short story writer, and Genomics Forum Writer-in-Residence – will discuss how science can influence their work in a number of different ways, and read examples of this.
Speaking in advance of the Cell Culture event, former Genomics Forum Writer-in-Residence Ken MacLeod – whose latest novel Intrusion has been nominated for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2012 – said:
“Historically, science has frequently featured in literature, as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine illustrate. In modern fiction, writers are increasingly using science in their work in new and diverse ways.
“I’m really looking forward to participating in the Cell Culture event, which will provide an opportunity to discuss with fellow authors how science, fiction, and society are now so frequently, yet diversely inter-linked.”
The importance of biotechnology to engaging young people in science, rebuilding the UK economy, and potentially establishing Scotland as a world leader in life sciences will be considered at The Revolution Will Be Bio-based… which is being produced by the Genomics Forum in association with .
Being held at the University of Edinburgh’s Appleton Tower on Saturday 10 November, this event will appeal to both young people interested in biological sciences, and those engaged by the potential future importance of biotechnology.
Not only will the event – which forms part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science – feature practical demonstrations of DIY-Bio and biotechnology processes, it will also provide an opportunity to discuss the impact life sciences are having upon education, the economy, and Scottish society, in a series of “TED” style pop-debates.
Commenting on The Revolution Will be Bio-based… Genomics Forum Director, said:
“Biotechnology is increasingly important to both our economy and Scottish society, with many recent advances in the life sciences – such as the cloning of Dolly the Sheep – resulting from Scottish-based research.
“This event will provide an opportunity to debate how we should look to develop Scottish life sciences in the future, in order to maximise their benefit to Scottish society. It will also enable young people to explore how engaging biotechnology – including DIY-bio – can be, which is highly important if we are going to develop Scotland as a world leader in the life sciences.”
IntroductionExperts debate influence of CTs on science, society and democracy.
Converging Technologies (CT) refers to the coming together, or combination, of seemingly disparate scientific disciplines – such as life sciences, micro/nano engineering and information technology – to deliver novel products and approaches that might benefit individuals or society.
International scientists and social scientists with a particular interest in potential benefits and impacts of CTs are gathering at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum on 27 and 28 September 2012 to discuss developing trends in convergence, such as new forms of databanking associated with commercial genetic-testing services. They will also consider how regulatory agencies can govern CTs and whether the predicted promise of CTs will actually translate into tangible benefits.
During the workshop, participants will explore the everyday technological convergences that are encountered in contemporary science and how these might be useful to society; how CTs might be producing changes in the nature of research and the use of applications relating to this; and how the societal use of technologies is governed.
Speaking as the workshop commenced, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, , said:
“Converging technologies are increasingly important, as inter-disciplinary crossovers develop between fields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and IT. These convergences potentially offer considerable benefits, but it is equally important that we fully consider the wider impacts these might have upon social institutions and science itself.
By organising this workshop, the Genomics Forum is facilitating valuable dialogue between scientists and social scientists in order the promote the consideration of factors such as, for example, the way in which it may be necessary to develop mechanisms of governance for emerging forms of converging technologies.”
It is intended that the outputs from the workshop will be published as a book.
IntroductionImpact of the Genomics Forum and Network to be documented in film.
The role of the ESRC Genomics Network in engaging society in issues relating to the life sciences is set to be documented in film, with the appointment by the ESRC Genomics Forum of two Filmmakers-in-Residence.
Joining the Genomics Forum in September 2012, – who specialises in producing animation-based work – and – who works primarily in live action documentary – will be researching the work and achievements of the Genomics Network over the last decade, with a view to producing a film, or films, that reflect these.
Both Cameron and Lindsay possess considerable film-making pedigrees, and have each been involved in projects which have been nominated for BAFTA awards.
Commenting on the appointment of the Filmmakers-in-Residence, Genomics Forum Deputy Director, said:
“The Genomics Forum has a long tradition of working in partnership with creative talent – including writers, playwrights and artists – to engage the public on issues around life sciences and genomics in innovative and interesting ways.
“As the current phase of the Genomics Network and Forum begins to draw to a close, we are delighted to have been joined by not one but two Filmmakers-in-Residence, who will be examining how the Genomics Network has so successfully brought society and the life sciences together.
“Judging by the excellent work that both Cameron and Lindsay have already produced, we very much look forward to seeing how they will interpret the wide ranging impact of the Genomics Network during the last decade.”
IntroductionScientists, sociologists and security and policy experts meet to discuss improving intelligence on emerging security threats from biotech.
Scientists, sociologists and security and policy experts from the USA and UK will meet in London this week [on 13-14 September 2012] to discuss how best to improve intelligence assessments and analysis in relation to emerging security threats posed by developments in biotechnology.
Organised by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum – which is based at the University of Edinburgh - the Improving Intelligence Analysis for Emerging Biotechnology Threats meeting will set out to determine how best to enhance cooperation in anticipating, identifying, and responding to the possible risks posed by key technological developments within the life sciences, and the potential use of these by those seeking to pose threats or develop weapons.
Speaking in advance of the meeting, ESRC Genomics Forum Bright Ideas Research Fellow – and event coordinator – Professor Kathleen Vogel said:
“There has been a considerable change in the international political landscape since the Cold-War period, resulting in an increase in concern over states, groups, or even individuals who might be interested in using bio-technology to develop threats.
“Simultaneously, life science technology that previously might have been confined to major research facilities has become ever cheaper and more extensively available.
“Whilst it isn’t necessarily the case that the threat of a biological attack upon society is now any more or less likely, these developments do mean that scientists, analysts, and policy makers need to continually seek to improve the ways in which they work cooperatively, in order to maximise knowledge and understanding of biotechnological security risks, and establish how to respond to these most appropriately.
“This week’s meeting sets out to consider exactly how best the academic, intelligence, and policy communities can improve levels of cooperation in this area”.
IntroductionJoin us for a dramatised reading of Caryl Churchill’s play A Number.
Over a decade and a half after advances in life sciences resulted in Dolly, the cloned sheep, the controversy around human cloning will be explored at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre on Tuesday 11 September, with a dramatised reading of Caryl Churchill’s play A Number.
Written at the start of the new millennium – at a time when the first draft map of the human genome had been produced – A Number is an emotionally moving and thought-provoking play that explores the impact that cloning could have upon human relationships. The play is being produced in conjunction with the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, with the reading being directed by award-winning dramatist, and Forum playwright-in-residence, Peter Arnott. Forum Visiting Research Fellow, Dr Adele Langlois, will also lead a post-performance panel discussion on the ethical issues around cloning, identified by the play.
Members of the discussion panel will include Professor Keith Campbell, who was a key member of the team responsible for cloning Dolly the Sheep, and Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Studies.
IntroductionIntrusion by Ken MacLeod on Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2012 longlist
We are delighted that 'Intrusion' by , former Writer in Residence at the Forum is on the Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2012 longlist.
From the inside flap:Imagine a near-future London where advances in medical science have led to the development of a single-dose pill which, taken when pregnant, eradicates many common genetic defects from an unborn baby.
Hope Morrison, mother of a hyperactive four-year-old, is expecting her second child. She refuses to take The Fix, as the pill is known. Her refusal divides her family and friends and puts her and her husband in danger of imprisonment or worse.
Is Hope's decision a private matter of individual choice, or is it tantamount to willful neglect of her unborn child?
Intrusion is a plausible and original novel with sinister echoes of 1984 and Brave New World.
Quote used for news title, from Iain M. Banks book review - A twistedly clever, frighteningly plausible dystopian glimpse
Full details of the Wellcome Trust book Prize:
The longlist for the £25 000 Wellcome Trust Book Prize is announced today, bringing together a varied range of fiction and non-fiction on the theme of health, illness and medicine. From music to madness and from anatomy to genetic engineering, this eclectic mix of books reflects the extraordinary number of ways in which authors can explore medicine to make it both engaging and accessible.
The longlist includes five novels and nine works of non-fiction:
John Coates - 'The Hour Between Dog and Wolf' (Fourth Estate)Joshua Cody - '[Sic]' (Bloomsbury)Nick Coleman - 'The Train in the Night' (Jonathan Cape)Mohammed Hanif - 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti' (Jonathan Cape)Peter James - 'Perfect People' (Macmillan)Harry Karlinsky - 'The Evolution of Inanimate Objects' (The Friday Project)Darian Leader - 'What is Madness?' (Hamish Hamilton)Ken Macleod - 'Intrusion' (Orbit)Professor Peter Piot - 'No Time to Lose' (W W Norton & Company)Michael Shermer - 'The Believing Brain' (Constable & Robinson)Tim Spector - 'Identically Different' (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson)Rose Tremain - 'Merivel: A man of his time' (Chatto & Windus)Thomas Wright - 'Circulation' (Chatto & Windus)Paul Zak - 'The Moral Molecule' (Transworld)
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, comments: "This is an excellent and extremely diverse selection of books, reflecting the creative ways in which authors use medicine in fiction and non-fiction. These books challenge and entertain the reader in equal measures, but crucially make us reflect on the impact that medicine has on our lives. It will no doubt be a difficult task for our judges to pick one winner out of such a strong list."
Scientific research, human behaviour and genetics are just some of the themes within this year's longlist, which was selected by a panel of judges chaired by Mark Lawson. Many of the books stimulate interesting debates, such as what would happen in a world where we could eradicate genetic defects, whether our beliefs match reality and whether the key to moral behaviour might lie within a single molecule?
Biographies and memoirs also feature in the longlist, ranging from personal experiences of illness to profiles of inspiring individuals such as Peter Piot and William Harvey, who have contributed to scientific progress through their extraordinary work. The list also includes a factitious biography that blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction by retelling Darwinian family history.
Human behaviour is another central theme in the longlist. Topics include a study of madness, economic behaviour and its impact on the global economy, the blurring of nature versus nurture in genetics, a theory of how we form beliefs, and a revolutionary theory of moral behaviour.
Last year, for the first time, a work of fiction won the prize - Alice LaPlante's 'Turn of Mind' - and, once again, a number of novels are in the running for the 2012 prize. Revealing an enduring interest in health and medicine across all literary genres, the longlist includes science fiction, a Peter James thriller, a love story and a work of historical fiction.
The shortlist will be announced on 11 October and the winner of this prestigious prize will be announced at an awards reception at Wellcome Collection, London, on 7 November 2012.
IntroductionForum's Creative Space team head to Orkney
- Sunday 9 September 20123.30pm to 4.30pmThe Pier Arts Centre, Stromness
Art and science each offer us different facets of truth. What happens when we combine them? A search to the depths of the sea, to the heart of the forest, and deep within the cells of our own bodies. Writers and scientists – , Matthias Wienroth and Lisa Matthews – come together to describe the journey.
Tickets are available from the Tourist Offices in Kirkwall and Stromness and online from the Science Festival website >>
IntroductionPeter Arnott’s play about US war veterans receives prestigious recognition.
The Genomics Forum is delighted to announce that its Playwright-in-Residence, , has had his latest work Why do they stand there in the rain recognised through the award of a Scotsman Fringe First.
The play was premiered as part of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it was performed by actors from the Pepperdine University (Malibu). The work tells the story of the American First World War veterans who occupied Washington during the 1932 depression, to demand their promised compensation payments.
The Fringe First Awards, which are organised by The Scotsman newspaper, are designed to encourage new writing to be premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and are highly prestigious, frequently having a significant positive impact on a how a show prospers beyond the Fringe.
The production has also received a five-star review from the British Theatre Guide, website, where Graeme Strachan wrote:
“The show is a touching tribute to the peaceful humanity of a people put in terrible strife, with no need to gloss over the harsh realities of the time, including the heartbreaking naivety of the troops and bigoted racism of many. Many links are made between the events then and the recent recession, and although the current occupy movements share many facets these are underplayed and left to be plainly evident to the audience, rather than being hammered home without any subtlety.
“The cast are universally superb, breaking into eloquent song one moment only to slip silently into quiet conversation that kept the audience rapt throughout.
“A truly fine production and a fascinating piece of new theatre, well worth its place as one of the best shows of this year's Fringe Festival.”
IntroductionScience at school is seen as a facts and figures discipline but it’s a rich source of innovation..
Mention scientific research to non-scientists, and visions of methodical, sedate, even tedious experimentation often spring to mind. Yet this image of scientific work is often at odds with how scientists are portrayed in popular fiction. From Dr Jekyll to Dr Frankenstein, why are scientists so frequently depicted as crazed geniuses, when in reality leading scientific figures, such as Hawking, Higgs and Einstein, are creative visionaries? These are issues that will be debated at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in an event taking place on Wednesday 22 August.
Supported by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, Scientists in fiction – creative or crazed geniuses? will consider whether the way in which authors portray scientists within their work reflects the collective fears and insecurities of society. Leading the debate will be a panel including: author Sophie McKenzie, who has written about genetics in her Medusa Project and Blood Ties series, exploring the emotional, social and scientific consequences of manipulating genes. Her scientists are complex, ambiguous characters. Sophie is joined by Dr Alistair Elfick, Director of the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh and Dr David Kirby, Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Manchester.
Speaking ahead of the Scientists in fiction event, panellist David Kirby said:
“Since the Victorian age, popular fiction has frequently portrayed scientists as either mad, evil or both. It’s interesting to consider if the appearance of such characters results from fiction reflecting deeper insecurities in society. For example, did the anxiety stemming from the rapid technological changes of the Victorian era feed into the persona of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Similarly, how influential was cold-war paranoia in shaping characters such as Ian Fleming’s Dr No?
“Our Book Festival event will explore how and why authors so frequently frame scientific characters – such as geneticist William Fox, who appears in Sophie McKenzie’s Medusa Project novels – as either creative or evil geniuses.”
IntroductionKen MacLeod has been appointed Writer in Residence at Edinburgh Napier University
We were delighted to hear that Ken's appointment as Writer in Residence at Edinburgh Napier University has just been officially announced. The university's innovative MA in Creative Writing course, open to full-time and part-time students, is both practical and challenging, with a strong genre component. Over the past few years, Ken has met and been greatly impressed by its lecturers, course leaders and students, and he very much looks forward to working with them.The 2010-2011 Writer in Residence, Robert Shearman, has some interesting and slightly scary things to say about what the job involves. For more, equally enlightening and entertaining information about the course and its objectives, take a look through the blog - and expect to see some contributions there from Ken in the coming months.
IntroductionDIY-Bio: Empowerment or anarchy? Edinburgh International Book Festival debate
In a garage or bedroom near you, citizen scientists or “bio-hackers” may well be engineering new life-forms. Thanks to technology becoming ever cheaper, bio-engineering is moving from the university to the “pop-up lab” allowing amateur bio-technologists to produce new organisms by combining snippets of DNA into complex genetic blueprints.
But will this revolution in accessibility of biotechnology to arm-chair scientist and bio-hackers be a force for good – leading to new discoveries that might benefit society, or could it have a more sinister edge? And how is the rise in DIY-bio being regulated?
These are just some of the questions and issues that will be debated, on Monday 13 August, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival event Supported by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, the session will bring together experts and commentators on DIY-bio, including: editor of Wired magazine, Ben Hammersley; author of the forthcoming Biohackers, Dr Alessandro Delfanti; and synthetic aesthetics researcher Dr Jane Calvert, to discuss the innovative advances and political and ethical challenges behind this technological revolution.
Speaking ahead of the DIY-bio event, Genomics Forum Director, , said:
“In a similar way to what has happened to computer technology during the past few decades, bio-technology is no longer the preserve of university academics or commercial life science companies. DIY-bio has come about thanks to the reduced costs and increased access to technologies such as DNA synthesis. This means synthetic biology is becoming democratised and potentially accessible to all.
“However, with the increased accessibility of DIY-bio there also come questions and debate about how this technology is used, who owns and controls it, and whether such a democratic approach to life sciences should be subject to regulation.”
IntroductionApplications invited for documentary filmmaker in residence opportunity
The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum (part of the ESRC Genomics Network), based at the University of Edinburgh, is seeking a documentary filmmaker to be in residence for a period of five months (beginning of September 2012 to end of January 2013) as the first phase of a project to create a documentary film that reflects on the issues and topics covered by the Forum and the Network over the past 10 years.
The successful applicant will be based at the Forum’s offices off Holyrood Road in Edinburgh and would be expected to work for an average of three days a week during the residency period. It would be preferable if the filmmaker had their own camera equipment so they can film footage as they go along. They will research the work of the Forum and the network (and visit the other centres) and attend events as appropriate in and beyond Edinburgh.
During the residency period, there will be a review point at the end of the first three months so that the filmmaker and the Forum can discuss the progress of the residency and review the ideas for the final film. At the end of the residency period, there will be a final review between the filmmaker and the Forum to agree on the creative direction of the final film. Once this has been decided, there will be a two-month extension phase which will involve the production of the final film. The second phase will include an additional fee for the filmmaker’s services and, should they choose, funds to subcontract an editor and/or animator. Whether it is a short or feature length documentary will be jointly decided by the filmmaker and the Forum.
The primary aim of the final film is to communicate the impact of the Forum and the Network’s activities during its existence and the role they have played in the development of the subject areas covered. The film will act as a filmic record of the Network’s work and it is hoped that the film will be submitted to the film festival circuit on completion.
There will be a total fee of £7,500 based on three days a week for the 5 month period.
This opportunity is open to all filmmakers around the UK and the EU. The position will be based in Edinburgh and we are unable to offer relocation expenses. The ability to work fluently in English is essential. As the desired result from the residency is a documentary film, documentary filmmaking experience would be advantageous.
All interested applicants must complete the online application form. The form will request online links to samples of the applicant’s work. In addition to the application form, the applicant will be required to email in a copy of their CV.
The final deadline for all applications is 12.00 noon, Friday 10th August 2012.
Copyright and creative licence
The final product will be a commission of the Genomics Forum and copyright will lie with the Forum. Provided that there is consultation with and pre-approval from the Forum, the filmmaker will be free to distribute/exhibit the film as they wish.
The filmmaker will be given a large degree of creative space regarding the narrative and content of the final film but the Forum will hold the right to final approval. As research topics will be covered, it is essential that they are not misrepresented or incorrectly explained.
More information about the Forum and the Network
The (EGN) is a major investment by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), dedicated to examining the development and use of the science and technologies of genomics. The activities of the EGN span the whole field of genomics, covering areas as diverse as plant and animal genetics, embryonic stem cell research, and associated health applications.
The EGN spans five of the UK's leading universities, and involves over a hundred researchers, from professors to PhD students, as well as an international cast of visiting research fellows. It is one of the largest social science investments in the ESRC's current portfolio, and is growing into the largest concentration of social scientific research on genomics in the world.
The was established in 2004 as a novel initiative in the field of social science research. It aims to connect research in genomics and life sciences, and the scientists that undertake this, with a wider audience in order to stimulate debate and increase understanding of the impacts this might have for society. In order to engage the public and policy-makers, the Genomics Forum has used a range of creative approaches – including writers, playwrights and artists in residence – as part of its
If you have any further queries, please contact Steph Wright on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 651 4736
IntroductionDr Catherine Lyall to take up new post from July
The ESRC Genomics Forum is delighted to announce the appointment of as its Deputy Director, who will assume her new post from the start July 2012. Dr Lyall will move to the Forum from , where she was Deputy Director.
Dr Lyall is an experienced science policy researcher and evaluator of knowledge exchange and interdisciplinary research activities, who has worked with Innogen since 2002. In addition, she is also currently Associate Dean (Research Careers) for the College of Humanities and Social Science, at the University of Edinburgh, and will therefore take up her role with the Forum on a part-time basis to enable her to continue in this role.
Catherine succeeds as Deputy Director, as a consequence of Dr Sturdy becoming Head of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
Speaking at the news of Dr Lyall’s appointment, – Director of the Genomics Forum – said:
“Catherine is an excellent choice as the Forum’s new Deputy Director, and I am delighted to welcome her to the team. She brings with her extraordinarily relevant expertise, and her considerable experience within the Genomics Network will help integrate social research on the life sciences in a way that offers the Forum considerable continuity of support.”
IntroductionWorld experts meet in Edinburgh to consider how life experiences impact on our genes.
World experts from the fields of social, biological and medical science will today (Monday 25 June 2012) gather in Edinburgh to discuss how they can cooperate to improve our understanding of the way behaviours and life experiences can influence how our genetic inheritance is expressed (epigenetics). This collaboration will also help contribute to understanding the implications epigenetic changes have for such key social policy issues as parenting, poverty, obesity and health.
The symposium is organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in collaboration with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the , and hosted at Edinburgh's City Chambers. Entitled Social science and epigenetics: opportunities and challenges, the symposium will seek to examine how multidisciplinary research into epigenetics – the science of the lasting marks that modify the expression of the genes encoded in our DNA – might help provide answers to societal concerns including why deprivation has such a marked impact on child development and on health outcomes.
Epigenetics (literally 'above the gene') is a recent scientific development that examines how particular mechanisms can influence whether certain genes are turned off, turned on, or modify a gene’s level of activity. Our genome includes both our DNA and chromatin that binds everything together. Research into epigenetics has revealed that even though a person’s DNA is not altered, lasting 'marks' on the DNA or the chromatin structure alter the extent to which each gene is expressed to produce the proteins that are the essential building blocks of life. Emerging research shows that factors such as poverty, parenting, stress and diet can impact how someone's genes are expressed, and this can remain "hard wired", with certain of these lasting epigenetic marks even being passed from parents to children.
Speaking as the epigenetic symposium commenced Professor John Hobcraft of the University of York, the lead scientific organiser of the Symposium, said: "Research is beginning to indicate how environmental and social factors are linked to a series of epigenetic changes, sometimes across quite broad areas of the genome. Factors such as the way in which parents bring up their offspring (parenting, diet, cognitive inputs) or experience of social disadvantages seem to have implications for how genes manifest themselves in later life."
"By bringing together experts from biological, medical and social sciences, this symposium will help determine how we can best work co-operatively to address 'grand challenge' research questions on the links between the social sciences and epigenetics and the pathways and mechanisms involved. Further progress in understanding the consequences of these epigenetic changes, and their potential reversibility for later in life, has the potential to bring benefits to individuals and society as a whole."
Commenting on the significance of the symposium to Scotland , Director of the Edinburgh-based ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, said: "Scotland has long been at the forefront of life-sciences and social science research. It is therefore fitting that such a high-profile event, bringing together a diverse group of international experts to determine the opportunities and challenges research into epigenetics presents for the world, should be hosted in Scotland."
"Equally, recent scientific studies have indicated that some of the problems Scotland continues to experience in relation to poor health – despite efforts by policy-makers to address these – may actually be linked to epigenetic changes resulting from social deprivation. This may partly underlie the so-called 'Glasgow effect'".
Read the full media release: World experts meet in Edinburgh to consider how life experiences impact on our genes
IntroductionGenomics Forum delighted to develop three events as part of this year's Book Festival programme.
The benefits and dangers of biohacking; the reasons why fiction often portrays scientists as evil geniuses; and the impact that society and upbringing can have upon human genetics, are amongst the fascinating topics that will be debated during this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.
These subjects are at the centre of three scientifically and sociologically themed events being supported and co-produced by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, which has been a major sponsor of the Edinburgh International Book Festival since 2006.
Taking place this August at the Book Festival in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens, the events will feature a number of renowned authors including Sophie McKenzie, award-winning writer of the Medusa Project and Blood Ties series of books for young people; Ben Hammersley, editor of the “technologists’ bible” Wired magazine; and Nessa Carey, author of The Epigenetics Revolution. The panels for each event will also feature internationally renowned scientists and science communicators.
Speaking following the launch of the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012 programme, Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the Genomics Forum, said:
“The ESRC Genomics Forum is delighted to once again be supporting the Edinburgh International Book Festival and working with it to produce a number of events which examine fascinating aspects of the interactions between science and society. The life sciences have an increasingly palpable impact on our lives and culture, and the events with which the Forum is involved are designed to reflect this.
"For example, as technology becomes ever cheaper and more readily available, it’s possible for people to set up “garage” biology labs that could produce scientific breakthroughs, or potentially be used for more sinister purposes. Advances in epigenetics indicate that social conditions may not only significantly impact someone’s own predisposition to health problems - such as obesity - but even the ways in which the genes of their children express relevant traits. And with science bringing so many benefits to society, why is it the case that literature so frequently portrays the scientist as an evil genius?"
Read the full media release:
Genomics Forum developed events at this year's Book Festival are:
Monday 13 August
Saturday 18 August
Wednesday 22 August
Tickets for the above, and other Book Festival events, can be purchased from the Edinburgh International Book Festival website, and will be available from Friday 29 June 2012.
IntroductionKen MacLeod collaborates in inventive approach to telling the story of stem cell research
Genomics Forum Writer-in-Residence, , has produced the script for an innovative graphic novel which tells the story of how stem cells have come to be used to treat a range of the medical conditions, and explores the ethical issues surrounding this.
Hope Beyond Hype has been developed by OptiStem, a large European consortium of stem cell researchers, to go beyond just explaining the science of stem cells, by depicting the process researchers undertake as they try to move stem cell research on towards clinical trials and therapies. The consortium approached acclaimed science fiction author – and Forum – Ken MacLeod to develop the story for the graphic novel, which was then illustrated by leading comic book artist, Edward Ross.
Hope Beyond Hype starts with the true life story of two badly burned boys being treated with stem cell generated skin grafts in 1983. It then follows the successes and setbacks of a group of researchers working together to use stem cells to cure blindness, whilst being introduced to knotty issues that are part of the process, including stem cell regulation and the controversial ethical issues surrounding the subject.
Speaking at the launch of Hope Beyond Hype, Ken MacLeod said:
“As a science fiction writer I'm naturally interested in science, and I see engaging with real science as important to science fiction. I'm proud to have been able to contribute to this graphic story, which explains a vital new field of medicine and introduces complex issues of science policy in a clear, straightforward, and entertaining way.”
Further information on Hope Beyond Hype, and a downloadable electronic copy of the story, can be found at the EuroStemCell website.
Ken McLeod has also blogged about his involvement in the project, on the Forum’s blog, Genotype.
Issued 23.05.2012: released 23.05.2012
IntroductionGreat opportunity for a recently-graduated photographer to gain experience working creatively in an education/research environment.
Have you recently (2011-2012) graduated from a higher-education photography course? Would you be interested in creating a portfolio of work inspired by the work of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum/Genomics Network, with a view to submitting this to the ESRC ‘Portraits of Britain’ photographic competition?
The ESRC Genomics Forum is seeking a Photographer in Residence to create a portfolio of photographic works inspired by the work of the Genomics Forum and its involvement with the wider Genomics Network – from late June to late July/early August 2012. It is intended that work produced during the residency will be exhibited at the Genomics Network Annual Conference 2013 and other events and potentially be entered into the ESRC Portraits of Britain photography competition.
The Genomics Forum was established in 2004 as a novel initiative in the field of social science research. It aims to connect research in genomics and life sciences, and the scientists that undertake this, with a wider audience in order stimulate debate and increase understanding of the impacts this might have for society. In order to engage the public and policy-makers, the Genomics Forum has used a range of creative approaches – including writers, playwrights and artists in residence – as part of its Creative Space initiative.
The Genomics Forum now wishes to commission a Photographer in Residence to represent the issues surrounding society and genomics through the photographic medium. Based at the Forum’s offices in Edinburgh, the residency will involve the photographer spending a minimum of 1-2 days a week working with Forum staff (and potentially those from other Genomics Network Centres such as Innogen) and attending Forum events to explore the issues and topics researched. The portfolio of work resulting from the residency, which will run from late June 2012 until late July/early August 2012, will be exhibited to promote the Forum’s work at various events. Selected photographs will also be entered into the ESRC Portraits of Britain photography competition, which has a closing date of 17 August 2012.
It is intended that the residency would provide an ideal opportunity for a recently-graduated photographer to gain experience working creatively in an education/research environment.
Applications are invited from students who will, or have, graduated from a higher education photography course in 2011 and 2012, and are able to be resident in Edinburgh during June and July this year.
The successful candidate will receive a monetary prize of £500 and £200 of vouchers towards photography equipment/courses from a supplier of their choice.
Copyright remains solely with the commissioned photographer. The ESRC Genomics Forum will hold first rights usage for one year from the commissioning date. The ESRC Genomics Forum will also have the right to use images for promotional purposes beyond this date.
To apply, you must complete the online application form by Friday 8th June. When we receive your application, we will send you a sharing link to a folder on 4shared* where you need to upload by Monday 11th June 2012:
- 12 samples of your work which you feel most represents your approach to the residency
- one page CV documenting your photography experience to date.
Please note that your application will not be accepted if the required documents are not uploaded by Monday 11th June 2012.
*you will need to sign up to a 4shared account in order to do this. It is free to do so and will only take a few minutes
The selection panel will include (Director, Genomics Forum), (Director, Innogen) and Colin Cavers (Lecturer in Photography, University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University)
If you have any queries, please contact Steph Wright on 0131 651 4736 or by email
Introduction'Saviour sibling’ fiction prompts ethical debate.
If your four year old son had a potentially fatal blood disorder, how far would you go to find a cure? Would it be ethically acceptable to create a ‘saviour sibling’ to produce the stem cells he desperately needs, and how trustworthy are the scientists who would undertake such a procedure?
These are some of the issues set out in Saving Sebastian – the latest novel from Hazel McHaffie – to be explored by the author during a public event at Waterstones, George Street, Edinburgh on Tuesday 12 June 2012 at 6.30pm.
At the event, Hazel McHaffie will be in conversation with - Lecturer in Regulation and Risk, University of Edinburgh and Research Fellow, Innogen - as well as discussing with the audience the issues and ethical dilemmas raised in Saving Sebastian.
Speaking in advance of the event , Director, said:
ldquo;As life sciences develop, novel medical approaches to treating disease – including the role of so called ‘saviour siblings’ – are becoming increasingly viable. However, these potentially bring with them significant ethical issues, and also raise questions about how we regulate the practitioners applying such technologies.
We are delighted to be hosting this event - in association with Waterstones - as part of the Genomics Forum’s programme of Social Sessions, which will allow the public to discuss with the author the themes set out in Saving Sebastian.”
Read the full media release: .
This free public event is part of a programme of ESRC Genomics Forum’s Social Sessions. All welcome but spaces are limited.
Please book online at: http://savingsebastian.eventbrite.co.uk
Saving Sebastian is published by Luath Press and is available from all good booksellers, including Waterstones.
IntroductionNew research to examine the influence of literature upon scientists.
Could reading Harry Potter help science find a cure for the common cold, or studying Jane Austen make someone a contender for a Nobel Prize for physics? New research examining the influence literature has upon the work of scientists may soon help provide answers to such questions.
What Scientists Read is an innovative project – funded by the Scottish Crucible - that sets out to discover if reading certain literature might influence a scientist’s career path, or even impact the research scientists undertake. As part of the project, researchers - from The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, and the Universities of Glasgow and St Andrews - are seeking volunteers from the scientific community across Central Scotland to be interviewed about their reading habits. The research team is also encouraging scientists from across the globe to visit the project’s website to share information on their favourite reading matter, and how this influences their work.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Chief Researcher - , commented:
“From Frankenstein to 2001, science has long influenced fiction. But relatively little is known about the significance of the leisure reading of scientists upon their career choices, the experiments they carry out, or how they approach ethical issues relating to their work. In establishing the importance of literature to science, not only will we be conducting interviews with Scotland’s scientific community, but we are also encouraging scientists from Adelaide to Anchorage to visit our website and let us know what they are reading, and why.
Read the full media release –
If you would like to contribute to the project – either by being interviewed (if you are a scientist based in the Scottish Central Belt), or posting information on you fiction reading – please visit www.whatscientistsread.com.
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley reviews Hans-Werner Sinn’s latest book, for Times Higher Education magazine.
Genomics Forum Director, has recently reviewed Hans-Werner Sinn’s latest book The Green Paradox on behalf of the Times Higher Education magazine. The Green Paradox, by Professor Sinn – internationally-renowned economist and President of Munich’s Ifo Institute - examines how international protocols to address climate change may have unexpected impacts upon the demand for, and supply of, fossil fuels.In his review for the Times Higher Education, Steve Yearley notes:“The aim of Sinn’s book is to shift our attention to the supply side. For example, it turns out that fossil fuel extraction is so enormously profitable that oil and gas prices would have to drop by more than 80% to make extraction uneconomic. Accordingly, alternative energy will have to be extraordinarily cheap before fossil fuels are priced out the market. Sinn offers no simple solutions but alerts us effectively to the supply side of the equation.”Professor Yearley’s review can be accessed on the THE website.The Green Paradox is published by MIT Press.
IntroductionThe conference is entitled ‘Genomics in Society: Facts, Fictions and Cultures.’ A key theme is the relationship between the promises and fictions of genomics and the social realities emerging during its development, and artistic representations will also be explored.
Ten years of research into the societal impact of genetics and genomics will be showcased and celebrated at a major international conference in London next week.
This year’s Genomics Network (EGN) annual conference is something of a landmark, as it marks 10 years since the inception of the Network. The programme, packed with more than 70 speakers from different countries and continents, concentrates on human identity and health issues and the effects of new genetic testing technologies.
“The Network’s last conference, organised jointly with the OECD, focused primarily on innovation and the bio-economy,” explained conference organiser Dr Christine Hauskeller, Senior Research Fellow at Egenis, the Network research centre based at the University of Exeter. “The breadth of the work of the EGN enables us this year to focus on genomics in society, on human genetics and new testing technologies, exploring the societal changes these may bring and the ethical issues raised.”
The conference takes place at the British Library on 23-24 April. “The British Library is the perfect venue for a conference that will, among other themes, explore literary and media representations, which shape the image and imaginaries enveloping genetics,” said Dr Hauskeller.
The keynote speakers are Celeste Condit, Anne-Fausto-Sterling, Ann Lingard and Margaret Lock, and each EGN centre will present its own particular strength in research. Participants can expect to gain an excellent overview of the latest developments and social science insights regarding human genomics in society in the UK, in Europe and across the globe.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to hear researchers from different national contexts making sense of the complex uptake of genetics research into human lives,” said Professor Condit (University of Georgia, USA). “If we have any hope of guiding these technologies within our social values, these kinds of discussions – informed by knowledge of both the science and the social contexts for its application – are crucial.”
The EGN conferences are an outstanding opportunity for social science and humanities scholars. This year’s programme, which celebrates a decade of world-class research and the international recognition it has attracted, should be exceptionally informative.
Notes for Editors:
- Egenis is the Centre for Genomics in Society, a research centre at the University of Exeter studying the meaning and social implications of developments in genomic science. www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/egenis/
- For further details or to arrange an interview, contact Claire Packman, Egenis Communications Officer, on 01392 725126, email@example.com
IntroductionLearn how the Forum’s Resident Playwright develops his genomics drama.
Following the critically acclaimed performance of – the genomics-inspired review written by the Forum’s Playwright-in-Residence, – audiences now have the opportunity to observe the creative process behind the work.As part of the Write Here festival, developed by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, on 16 and 17 April award-winning dramatist Peter Arnott will provide an insight into how life sciences have influenced his recent work, and the stages involved in the production of Talent Night at the Fly Room. This will allow festival-goers a rare opportunity to observe how drama evolves from the writer’s initial concepts, through to a live performance before an audience.For the last 12 months, Peter Arnott has been involved with the Genomics Forum as its first . During this time, he has worked with the Forum and the Traverse Theatre to stage a number of engagement events which have involved the public in dialogue about genomics and its relevance to society.Following on from Talent Night in the Fly Room, Peter will soon commence work on a play – commissioned by the Traverse Theatre with support from the Genomics Forum – which will further explore issues and concepts around genetics and society. It is anticipated the play will premiere early in 2013.Further information on Peter Arnott’s appearance at the Write Here festival can be found at the Traverse website.
During his time as Playwright-in-Residence, Peter has also been a regular contributer to the Forum's blog - Genotype.
IntroductionForum resident writers feature in an exciting evening of fact and fiction.
Proof that literature, drama and genetics can make interesting companions will be much in evidence at the British Library on 24 April, when the institution plays host to an evening of fact and fiction examining the influence life sciences have on popular culture.Genetic fictions: Genes and genre will feature social scientists from the ESRC Genomics Network on stage with award winning playwright, , and leading science fiction writer, , as they demonstrate how genes and genetics can permeate creative writing and theatre.Both writers, who have enjoyed year-long , will use the event to illustrate how genomics has influenced their work, with Ken MacLeod reading from his new novel Intrusion; and Peter Arnott, and players, performing extracts from a life-science inspired review.The event will also feature (Cesagen, Cardiff University) talking about her upcoming book Genetic Fictions: Genes, Gender and Genre, which considers how genetics connects with readers and audiences.Chaired by Jude England, Head of Social Sciences at the British Library, the event will also provide the audience with ample opportunity to pose questions and engage in discussion.For further information on Genetic fictions: Genes and genre and to book tickets, please visit the British Library website.
IntroductionCreative writing workshop to explore the “human face” of science.
How accurately do the media and contemporary culture – including hit TV series such as The Big Bang Theory and Fringe – portray science and scientists? If creative writers experience science first-hand, how might this influence the way scientists are represented in fiction? These are just some of the questions that are likely to be explored – and hopefully answered – in a creative writing workshop hosted by Genomics Forum Bright Ideas Fellow,.
Through her work as writer-in-residence at the University of Bristol’s Science Faculty, Tania has been able to experience at first hand the work of a range of scientists, and observe scientific experimentation, “as it happens”. This has allowed her to attempt to present a different face of science in a number of short stories she has produced during her residency. With funding from Arts Council England, she is now working on a new collection of short stories inspired both by these experiences and by the classic 1917 scientific text, On Growth and Form, by Scottish biologist D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson. Speaking in advance of the workshop – which will take place at the Genomics Forum at 11.30am on Friday 13 April – Tania Hershman said: “As a former science journalist, I’m aware that science is often portrayed in the media as being very black and white, a monolith, where it's all about right or wrong. Likewise, scientists are frequently characterised as being aloof, eccentric or even socially inept. “Having had the opportunity to see scientists in action in the laboratory, it’s clear that the popular representation of scientists is somewhat misguided. Whilst the language they use might be unfamiliar, they experience the same triumphs and setbacks any one of us might encounter during a typical day at work. “A science lab is a fascinating world, full of inspiration for the creative writer, but not a place many of us are privileged to enter. During the workshop I shall be sharing how I used some of the “fly on the wall” observations of scientists at work and the rhythms of life in a lab in my short stories – and helping people find ways to take inspiration from science to stimulate their own creative writing." Tania’s science-themed work will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Friday 13 April, as part of the Made in Bristol segment.The workshop will take place at 11:30am, Friday 13 April 2012, at the . No previous experience is necessary, and full details, including how to book places, are available from the .
IntroductionGenomics Forum “delighted” to contribute to the 2012 Edinburgh International Science Festival.
StoryThe Genomics Forum will once again be contributing to the programme of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, with two events forming part of the 2012 Festival’s Future Human series featuring Forum contributors.The Festival’s Future Human strand consists of a series of special screenings, conversations and events that will examine what it means to be human – in the past present and future.Following a screening of the modern classic Gattaca, Forum Director, will explore whether the fictionalised world portrayed in the film - where genetic discrimination underpins society – could ever become a reality.In the event Human 2.0, Forum Writer in Residence will form part of a panel examining what the implications of reengineering the human body, and even the human genome, might have for the way in which we define and value our humanity.Commenting in advance of his appearance at the Science Festival, Steve Yearley said:“From its inception in 1989, the Edinburgh International Science Festival has grown to become one of our premiere science communication events, and the Genomics Forum is delighted to once again be invited to contribute to its programme.“The Festival provides a genuine opportunity for people to debate the issues around how science – and in particular life sciences – might impact the society of the future, and both myself and Ken MacLeod are very much looking forward to engaging in these discussions at our respective events”. The Edinburgh International Science Festival runs from 30 March to 15 April 2012, and details of the full programme can be found at the Festival’s website.Human 2.0 takes place on Friday 13 April, at 17:30 hrs.Gattaca takes place on Saturday 14 April, at 15:15hrs.
IntroductionPreparations for Peter Arnott’s Genomics Revue come to fruition.
The sounds of music, drama, and cabaret have permeated the offices of the Genomics Forum this week. These are welcome indications that rehearsals for Talent Night at the Fly Room are progressing well.Talent Night at the Fly Room – which will take place at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, at 7.30pm on Thursday 29 March 2012 – is a “genomic review” that marks the culmination of ’s year-long role as Playwright in Residence at the Genomics Forum. During the last 12 months, Peter has worked with the Forum and the Traverse Theatre to stage a number of engagement events which have involved the public in dialogue about genomics and its relevance to society. Breaking off from rehearsals to talk about Talent Night at the Fly Room, Peter Arnott said:“The last twelve months, working as Playwright in residence with the Genomics Forum, have provided me with a fantastic opportunity to engage people in the debate around genomics and its implications for society, and to develop my own understanding and perceptions of this fascinating area of science."Talent Night at the Fly Room represents a great vehicle with which to explore further some of the ideas and issues that have come to light during this time, and I hope to feed some of the material from this revue into the genomics-themed play I am currently writing.“Working with actors is a great way of ‘reality testing’ ideas – the rehearsal room is the place where you experimentally discover whether or not you ‘are onto something’”.As his residency draws to a close, Peter Arnott has been commissioned by the Genomics Forum and Traverse Theatre to produce a play with genomics as its central theme. It is hoped the work will be completed by early 2013.Tickets for Talent Night at The Fly Room can be booked from the Traverse Theatre’s website.
IntroductionFootballer's collapse highlights debate on testing for inherited heart conditions.
The tragic collapse, from a suspected heart attack, of Bolton Wanderers’ midfielder Fabrice Muamba has led to renewed calls for improved screening for inherited heart conditions. Whilst Fabrice Muamba’s condition appears to be improving, similar incidents are not uncommon - particularly amongst young athletes, and sadly these often prove fatal. It is estimated that each week within the UK up to eight, apparently healthy, young people succumb to so-called “sudden cardiac death”. A considerable number of these fatalities result from inherited heart disorders.The role that screening for genetic heart conditions could play in reducing the numbers of young people dying from sudden cardiac death will be explored at a deliberative event taking place at venues across Scotland on Tuesday 3 April 2012. Organised by Gengage: The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network, and forming part of the 2012 Edinburgh International Science Festival, the event brings together experts, those affected by sudden cardiac death, and other interested members of the public to consider new screening technologies, and what more can be done to identify and potentially address the condition., Gengage Co-ordinator, commented:“Tragically, sudden cardiac death affects young people throughout Scotland, and can be particularly prevalent in young athletes. At present, no systematic procedures exists for conducting genetic tests on these young people, or for following up with relatives who may also be at risk. New technologies now allow us to screen for sudden cardiac death resulting from inherited conditions, and this event will provide an opportunity to debate how Scotland can best apply these.”, Director of the Genomics Forum, stated:“When a young, fit person suddenly collapses there is an understandable focus on determining the cause of death and ensuring that no foul play is involved. But emphasis should also be put on working out if such fatalities result from inherited genetic disorders, as this may prompt testing to discover if the deceased person’s relatives might also be unknowingly affected by the same genetic condition." Further details on the event – which will video-link audiences in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, the Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland with experts and participants in Edinburgh – can be found on the Gengage website.Gengage (The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network) brings together, promotes and supports individuals and organisations working in Scotland to increase public awareness, dialogue and debate on issues to do with healthcare genetics. Gengage is managed by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum based at the University of Edinburgh.
IntroductionForum Director Steve Yearley visits TIK Centre, Oslo.
has been invited to the University of Oslo - Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture (TIK-centre) to present their first TIK seminar of the new semester.
His presentation "Climate change, climate hacks and the sociology of science" on 15 March 2012 will focus on the ‘Climategate’ affair - which saw the publication of e-mails and documents hacked or leaked from one of the world's leading climate research institutions. Steve will draw on studies in the sociology of science to examine whether the ‘Climategate’ revelations really offer an insight into bad scientific practice or in fact just arise from aspects of the normal combative process of argumentation within the science community.
For more visit: Climate change, climate hacks and the sociology of science.
This event follows Steve's successful TIK seminar in November 2011 when he presented "Science and Technology Studies(STS)and the Environment".
The University of Oslo's TIK Centre has ten years of groundbreaking research, education and research communication in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Innovation Studies. Steve Yearley is currently collaborating with TIK on a research project about quality assurance in the communication of climate science.
The Centre consists of approximately 25 staff members and offers postgraduate education (Masters and PhD) including the European Masters in Science and Technology Studies, ESST. TIK participates in a number of international research networks and about 30 per cent of TIK research is funded by the Norwegian research council and the EU framework programmes.
IntroductionPippa Goldschmidt wins Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.
StoryThe ESRC Genomics Forum congratulates – one of the Forum’s – on receiving a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award 2012-13.Pippa took up a creative residency with the Genomics Forum in 2009. As well as writing articles for the Forum on how science is portrayed in literature, Pippa also organised successful poetry and short story competitions attracting international entries, and hosted workshops focusing on science and poetry. Currently, Pippa is part of a new Genomics Forum interdisciplinary team developing a short pilot project involving a small number of artists and scientists. , Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, commented:“I am delighted that Pippa has been selected to receive one of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards. As one of the Forum&ssquo;s Writers in Residence, Pippa has done excellent work bridging the worlds of literature and science, and in doing so has opened the Forum's activities to significant new audiences.”As well as receiving a £2000 prize, winning writers have access to a mentor, available to assist them in further developing their skills and work. For more on Pippa's activities at the Genomics Forum visit Creative Space
IntroductionSocial Anthropologist Karen Jent offers final lab notes.
Following seven months as an affiliated researcher with the Genomics Forum we bid farewell to Karen Jent.
Karen, a graduate student in Social and Cultural Anthropology and Modern History, is returning to the University of Zurich, Switzerland to complete her Masters dissertation on the relationship between regenerative medicine, society and the concept of time.
Since arriving at the Genomics Forum in August 2011 she has been pursuing ethnographic research in a stem cell laboratory based at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
“The world of science can seem remote to those of us outside the lab. So what is it like to be a scientist? Amongst other things being a scientist means conducting a lot of routine laboratory practices. It turns out that unexpected objects such as the laboratory timer play an important role.”
Read Karen’s full blog report on her research - Tick-tock goes the clock: Laboratory modes of anticipation
For more details contact Karen Jent
IntroductionPeter Arnott is under commission by the Traverse Theatre to write a genomics-related play.
Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum, commented:
"Peter exceeded our ambitious expectations during his year's residency at the Genomics Forum. He entered into our world of engagement with the life sciences with an infectious enthusiasm and inspired new audiences to consider both the science itself and its social dimensions. We are delighted that, in association with the Traverse, this successful creative venture can progress into a commission for Peter to develop a full-length genomics-related play."
Read full media release - Translating the Genome into a Play
This commssion by the Traverse Theatre Company has the working title 'The Fly room' and audiences are offered exciting opportunities to follow the development of this work through a series of special engagements.
Upcoming events include:
Genomics Revue Talent Night in the Fly Room, 29 March 2012
Rehearsed reading of The Fly Room, 21 April 2012
Tickets available from Traverse Theatre 0131 228 1404 / www.traverse.co.uk
Peter will start work on this commission in April 2012 when his engagement as the Genomics Forum's first Playwright in Residence ends.
Read Peter's blogs detailing his year long residency at Genotype.
IntroductionBook review by Genomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley for Times Higher Education magazine.
Mediating Climate Change by Julie Doyle explores how practices of mediation and visualisation shape how we think about, address and act upon climate change.
In his review for Times Higher Education Steve Yearley comments "Julie Doyle used to study techniques for the visualisation of the body in the context of anatomy; in her spare time she was a Greenpeace campaigner. This book blends those preoccupations: it asks how climate change is represented and envisioned in the media and documentaries, by campaigners and artists, and by international scientific bodies."
Read the full review online - The Times Higher Education Magazine - Mediating Climate Change
IntroductionAlessandro Delfanti concluded his visit to the Genomics Forum with a workshop on sharing.
Alessandro Delfanti from the University of Milan spent a month (10 January - 12 February 2012) at the Genomics Forum as a Bright Ideas Fellow.
With a Masters degree in Science Communication, Alessandro's research interests are related to how open access practices interact with the scientific culture and contemporary life sciences.
The focus for this visit was work on his first book - Biohackers.
Due for publication by Pluto Press in autumn 2012, Biohackers highlights an emerging culture amongst those in the life sciences where traditions of open science are mixing with elements from the hacker ethic and free and open source software cultures.
Exploring these ideas Alessandro also hosted a special invitation workshop during his time at the Genomics Forum.
Circulating genomes: sharing in the life sciences - the workshop brought together social scientists and genomics researchers creating a forum for discussion of the novel and emergent practices around sharing genomic research, personal genomics projects and direct-to-consumer testing.
Presentation from the workshop will be available on-line soon - visit ESRC Genomics Network YouTube channel
For more information:
IntroductionCongratulations to Dr Nina Hallowell on her new role.
We extend our congratulations to Dr Nina Hallowell on her recent appointment as Programme Lead at the Public Health Genomics (PHG) Foundation in Cambridge.
With experience in the ethical and social implications of DNA testing, Nina was previously an Associated Senior Research Fellow at the Genomics Forum before visiting Australia as a Leverhulme Fellow working on a number of projects in cancer genetics.
Her new role at the PHG Foundation will see her involved in policy related work on the responsible translation of genomic technologies into clinical practice.
2012 marks the PHG Foundation's 15th anniversary.
Founded in 1997 as the Public Health Genetics Unit it was the first UK and European centre for public health genomics. An independent, non-profit, international organisation the Foundation believes in the potential of biomedical science and genomics to transform human well-being. With a mission to enable advances in biomedicine and genomics to be responsibly translated into effective ways to prevent illness and provide healthcare that is accessible to all on the basis of their vulnerabilities and needs. Together with developing major programmes the Foundation hosts public engagement events.
Learn more at PHG Foundation website
IntroductionA great line up of events for February and March 2012
We are delighted to announce that Robert Cook-Deegan (Director for Genome Ethics, Law & Policy at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, USA) and Priscilla Wald (Professor of English, Duke University) are visiting the Genomics Forum as a Bright Ideas Fellows. During their stay we will be running two exciting events:Priscilla Wald Seminar on Thursday 23 February - 3.30pm - 5.00pmRoom S37 (second floor), Psychology Building, 7 George Square, The University of EdinburghRobert Cook-Deegan Public Lecture on Thursday 8 March - 5.00pm - 6.30pm (followed by a drinks reception 6.30 - 7.30pm)Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Doorway 3, Medical School, Teviot Place, The University of EdinburghWe very much hope that you can join us for these events. Attendance is free but please book online using Eventbrite to secure your place:http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/org/1454045566?s=6626525Further informationAny queries please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTel: 0131 651 4740
IntroductionOn Tuesday 17 January, the BBC Horizon programme focused on synthetic biology
Link to Playing God on BBC Two Horizon site >> The last line of this Horizon programme was "We have created for ourselves unprecedented power over life itself". This is a bold statement, and, if correct, it would have important consequences for the future of human society. But there were other, perhaps less bold, but still extremely interesting issues raised by the programme. For example, how easy it is really to extract a biological "part" which performs a specific function and put this into a new cell or animal? What does it mean when we say that we can create a cell "whose parent is a computer" or that organisms can now be thought of as "biological machines"? Is biology likely to become more democratic, or will the corporations highlighted producing biofuels become the significant players in this field? And more generally, what is the field of synthetic biology, and what separates it from genetic engineering, or from nanotechnology? These kinds of questions, along with others to do with governance, intellectual property rights and standardisation in synthetic biology, are all currently being addressed by researchers working across the ESRC Genomics Network.The Genomics Network is the largest concentration of social scientific research on genomics in the world and our research effort involves more than a hundred resident academics, together with an international cast of visiting academics, industry specialists and policymakers. to explore our work on synthetic biology, bioenergy and a wide range of life science related topics.
IntroductionCongratulations to James Smith on his recent appointment
Prof James Smith adds University of Edinburgh Assistant Principal of Global Development to his list of eminent appointments which include Innogen Director of Developing Country Research, University of Edinburgh Chair of African and Development Studies, advisor on DfID's Research Into Use programme and trustee at Practical Action. In 2011 James was also selected to be a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland.James Smith's profile page
IntroductionLisa Matthews sparkles as the Genomics Forum’s final Bright Ideas Fellow of 2011
Lisa Matthews has spent a wintry month at the Genomics Forum as a Visiting Bright Ideas Fellow helping to develop ideas for an art-science project.
Based on the north east coast of England Lisa is a successful published poet, freelance writer, academic and co-enquiry practitioner specialising in using words, language and creative writing techniques in diverse educational, healthcare and collaborative environments.
From 21 November to 16 December 2011, Lisa has been working with Dr Matthias Wienroth, Research Fellow at the Forum, and the Forum’s Writer-in-Residence Dr Pippa Goldschmidt. The team have been developing ideas for the Photo-Poetry Project, a research/creative project exploring genomics and post genomics issues. Lisa and the Forum hope that this exciting new and highly innovative project will secure funding to commence in Spring 2012.
Commenting on her Bright Ideas Fellowship Lisa said:
“This fellowship has afforded me the creative and analytical space to develop a variety of research strands. Often sci-art projects are under-resourced and output-driven with little - and sometimes no - real dedicated time to reflect on the rationale and process. The Photo-Poetry Project will offer that. Putting experts from divergent disciplines and fields together with visual artists and creative writers is always a challenge and with this residency I have had the time and space to consider the collaborative process from a variety of angles.”
The creative project journal Lisa has been writing while at the Forum will form one of the project outputs and is a way of reflecting the level of time, energy and expertise that goes into a complex art-science collaboration. Lisa's journal, along with writings from other team members, will be published on the Forum’s Creative Space in 2012.
One of the major creative themes that have emerged for Lisa is that new genomics is tending towards infinity as it reveals layer upon layer of genetic complexity via its fast developing computational power and deluges of data. While the linguistic distillation inherent within the poetic discipline tends always towards a slowing down and, ultimately, to near silence (how few words can a poem have to truly be called a "poem"?) - a line of enquiry and research Lisa hopes to develop as an integral part of the larger Photo-Poetry Project.
In 2012 we look forward to bringing you more details on the Photo-Poetry research/creative project. For more information on the Forum’s creative and artistic ventures visit - Creative Space
In January 2012 Lisa will be editing and preparing for publication her latest collection of poetry. The book, working title "The Line", is her third poetry collection. For more on Lisa's creative writing visit www.stoneandsea.co.uk
IntroductionThe Forum's Resident Playwright Peter Arnott is in rehearsals with a new play at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
Taking a short break from genomics the Forum's Resident Playwright Peter Arnott is in rehearsals in December 2011 with his script for The Infamous Brothers Davenport.
The play can be seen at The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh from the 19 January until 11 February 2012 and is inspired by the true story of the Davenport Brothers. Set in 1862 audiences can look forward to an exciting evening of magic and illusion as they follow the on and off stage lives of Willy and Ira Davenport.
Directed by Candice Edmunds and Jamie Harrison and featuring original compositions by Phamie Gow the play sees the first collaboration between the Lyceum Theatre and the company Vox Motus. Following it's run at the Lyceum this production will tour around Scotland.
For more details and to book tickets visit the Royal Lyceum Theatre website
Peter will be back at the Fourm in January 2012 and once again delighting us with up dates on his work and thoughts through his regular postings on Genotype - the Genomics Forum blog.
You can also join Peter on Thursday 26 January 2012 at 4pm in the Traverse Theatre Bar Café for the last in his series of informal conversation on all things genomics. For more details on this FREE event see: Translating the Genome?
Part of the New Spring Programme at the Travserse Theatre, Edinburgh - tickets are now on sale for Talent Night in the Fly Room on Thursday 29 March 2012 when for one night only Peter has created a genomics-inspired revue of songs, poems, sketches and stories.
To book tickets visit: Traverse Theatre Box Office - Talent Night in the Fly Room
IntroductionTwo exciting vacancies for an Events Manager and Press and Communications Officer.
College Office HSS - Events Manager, ESRC Genomics Forum
As Events Manager for the ESRC Genomics Forum, you'll love organising both UK and international events with creative flair and have the ability to write event publicity material. You will organise the Forum's annual event calendar which includes exhibitions, public talks, seminars and workshops and provide managerial and practical support for ESRC Genomics Network events when appropriate.
College Office HSS - Press and Communications Officer, ESRC Genomics Forum
As the Forum's Press and Communications Officer, you'll have the creative flair and experience across the whole marketing and communications mix to manage and deliver a range of activities including publications, events, promotional materials and online communications. The knowledge and ability to increase media interest in our activities is a vital part of your skills set as well as excellent interpersonal ability and the capacity to work closely with a broad range of internal and external partners. You'll also be responsible for developing the Forum's 'Creative Space' scheme, so experience of designing and delivering public engagement programmes would be an advantage.
Full details of both posts on our
IntroductionMore than 200 attending the Genomics Forum’s Bridging the Gap Conference on Wednesday 7 December 2011.
A capacity audience will attend the Bridging the Gap Between Research, Policy and Practice Conference organised by the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum and held at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London on Wednesday 7 December 2011.
This event is the first of its kind for those engaged in social science research and you can keep up to date with news from the event on Twitter by following the ESRC Genomics Network @genomicsnetwork and using the conference hashtag: #kbconf
Read the media release - 'Knowledge brokers’ make social science count
For full conference details visit our event page: Bridging the Gap Between Research, Policy and Practice: The importance of intermediaries (knowledge brokers) in producing research impact
Following the conference access to selected materials will be available on the Genomics Forum website.
Issued 17.11.2011: released 30.11.2011
IntroductionGenomics Forum Director, Professor Steve Yearley, has become the new Executive Committee Chairman of the Edinburgh Consortium for Rural Research (ECRR).
"I feel very honoured to be elected by the Edinburgh Consortium on Rural Research (ECRR) membership to the post of Executive Committee Chairman, a role that will be for 3 years in the first instance.
"The ECRR does valuable work in helping its member organisations to work together on rural and environmental issues in Scotland, in promoting inter-disciplinary research and sharing specialised facilities. It also provides an accessible source of expertise and information on scientific matters that affect rural Scotland, its people and its natural heritage. I'm looking forward to being an active member of this community and to trying to help stimulate novel initiatives."
The Edinburgh Consortium for Rural Research includes farming, forestry, aquaculture and recreational pursuits. Though based mainly in or near Edinburgh, ECRR's member organisations have a network of bases that span the whole of Scotland. Beyond Scotland, ECRR members are closely involved in science-based work in other parts of the UK, in Europe, and in many other regions of the developed and developing world.
IntroductionPhotographers are encouraged to get wildlife in their sights for the EUZOOS-XXI International Biological Art Contest.
As part of a current project engaging people in nature conservation, EUZOOS is hosting an exciting International Biological Art Contest.
This is an opportunity to merge art and science by expressing issues through video, animation, illustration and photography. Images commenting on topics related to Biodiversity, Invasive Alien Species, Ecological Connectivity and Endangered Species are invited.
Entries to the competition may be submitted until 15 December 2011 with the winners announced in February 2012.
The ESRC Genomics Forum is the lead partner on the projects analyses of public engagement with science and, in conjunction with EUZOO’s partner Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust will be supporting an exhibition of the winning photographic entries to the competition.
For full details on the photographic contest and how to submit your entries see: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust - Art Competition
Learn more about engaging people and nature conservation at EUZOOS XXI project
IntroductionEnjoy a bumper number of Genomics Network articles in this annual ESRC publication.
The ESRC’s annual news stand magazine Britain in 2012 is on sale, offering readers a concise analysis of research and topical issues concerning Britain today.
As part of showcasing the diversity of ESRC-funded research around the state of the nation the ESRC Genomics Network has authored 10 articles in this year’s publication.
These range from a Science and Innovation item on the development of non-invasive pre-natal genetic testing by Egenis’s Dr Susan Kelly alongside environmental articles by Innogen on biofuels, and how breeding technologies might help reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle.
Within the Public Services section Cesagen looks at how our care systems are failing our aging society, and the powerful vision of personalised medicine and what it could mean for the future of healthcare. From the Genomics Forum Professor Steve Yearley examines how some of Europe’s Zoos are looking to engage the public in nature conservation, and highlights the political issue of food security.
Copies of Britain In 2012 are available from WH Smiths Travel and High Street shops, Waitrose, M&S, Waterstones, and online through our the ESRC website.
For more details and to order your copy visit: ESRC Britain in 2012
IntroductionOn 21 November the Genomics Forum hosts a joint public discussion event with both The Royal Society of London and Edinburgh.
The Royal Society of London is currently conducting a major policy study on the conduct of science as a public enterprise.
It is primarily concerned with “open science”, how the results of scientific inquiries can be made readily available in forms that permit them to be validated, replicated and reused in a digital age of vast data volumes, and how they can be made accessible to those citizens who wish to scrutinise the basis for scientific claims. It asks whether openness is an unqualified good, and what limitations should be placed upon it. The Royal Society is concerned with the governance of science and how science serves the public good.
As part of this study the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is hosting a joint public discussion forum with The Royal Society of London and The Royal Society of Edinburgh in Edinburgh on Monday 21 November at 6pm
For details and to book see: Science as a Public Enterprise; Why and How should Science be Open?
In advance of the public discussion an expert workshop will bring together leading social scientists concerned with the role of science in society, to consider a number of questions of direct relevance to the Royal Society’s inquiry:
- Is science itself a public good? In what ways does science serve or subvert the public interest?
- Is the publication of scientific data – so-called “open science” – necessarily in the public interest?
- Under what conditions does it foster or undermine public trust in science?
- How does open availability affect the value of scientific data?
- Can the open publication of scientific data be reconciled with the protection of private interests, including the privacy of personal data and the legitimate pursuit of commercial interests?
Professor Steve Yearley, Director, ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forumand Bright Ideas Visiting Fellow Dr Iain Gillespie (Formerly Head of Science & Technology Policy Division, Directorate for Science Technology and Industry, OECD) will be amongst those offering keynote presentations at the expert workshop.
It is expected that the outcomes of this discussion will help to inform the recommendations of the Royal Society’s working group on science as a public enterprise.
IntroductionSteve Yearley is the author of Current Sociology's most cited article
Our congratulations to Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the Genomics Forum, as his article Sociology and Climate Change after Kyoto published in Current Sociology in 2009, is named the most cited article in this journal of all articles published in 2009 and 2010.
The article focuses on the comparatively neglected role of the social sciences (including economics) and of assumptions about the social functioning of the scientific community in projections about climate change and about societies' responses to changing climates and related environmental phenomena.
Sociology and Climate Change after Kyoto What Roles for Social Science in Understanding Climate Change? is now available to access free in perpetuity.
For details of his other publications visit Steve Yearley's profile page
IntroductionEmma Frow, Genomics Forum Research Fellow secures a year in Harvard and a new job.
Emma will be spending her first year in this new post in Harvard as a Science, Technology and Society Fellow.
Emma secured this opportunity while at the Forum and will be working with Professor Sheila Jasanoff on a project funded by the US National Science Foundation entitled 'Life in the Gray Zone: Governance of New Biology in Europe and the United States.' As part of this project, she will continue to work on synthetic biology, expanding the scope of her research to include a comparative cross-national dimension.
“Through this fellowship,” explains Emma “I hope to strengthen connections between the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS) research clusters in Edinburgh and at Harvard.”
While in the US, Emma is also planning a return visit to Arizona State University, to continue ongoing collaborations with the Center for Nanotechnology in Society.
Returning from Harvard in September 2012 Emma will take up her new lectureship at the University of Edinburgh. The Forum team wish her well and look forward to opportunities to continue working with her in this new role.
To keep in touch with Emma's work visit: - Emma Frow Staff Page
IntroductionCall for submissions for issue to be edited by EGN team
The call for article manuscripts is now open for a special issue of Sociology, the journal of the British Sociological Association, to be edited by the team organising the EGN : (Egenis, lead editor), (Cesagen), (Genomics Forum) and (Innogen).
The special issue, entitled, 'Genetics: The Sociology of Identity' will be in print in October 2013. The call for submissions is now open until 31 July 2012.
“The issue will address the many ways in which genetic knowledge and technologies intersect with the formations of personal, social, cultural, racial/ethnic and national identities in contemporary societies,” says Dr Hauskeller. “It will bring together state-of-the-art sociological analysis of identity concepts and practices with reflections on the diverse roles played by genetic knowledge in the formation, consolidation and problematisation of contemporary identities.”
Potential themes are suggested on the full call for papers.
Authors are requested to read the full submission instructions (on on the ‘Instructions and Forms’ page) before submitting manuscripts.
All manuscripts will be subject to the normal referee process, but potential authors are welcome to discuss their ideas in advance with the editors. Queries: email@example.com
IntroductionIain Gillespie joins the Forum as a Visiting Fellow
Iain Gillespie, formerly Head of Science & Technology Policy Division Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, OECD and now a Consultant, is a familiar face at the Genomics Forum having served as a member of the Forum advisory board since its creation.
During October and November 2011 Iain is spending seven week as a Bright Ideas visiting research fellow at the Forum working on the re-launch of a non-profit consultancy.
The Innovation Partnership is targeted at advising emerging and developing countries on achieving innovation through the life sciences. The consultancy will in particular be advising on the use of collaborative models for intellectual property exploitation (so-called knowledge markets) within the bio-economy and on strong user involvement and training of developing country experts. Together with collaborators in McGill, Toronto and other Canadian institutions, Iain will be looking to draw from the experience of Network staff, and to establish a model based on good practice.
While in Edinburgh Iain also plans to work with colleagues both in the Forum and Innogen, contribute to publications on industrial and food biotechnology, and seek opportunities for developing stronger links with Scottish Enterprise around innovation and society based broadly on genomics.
To learn more please join us at:
A public seminar presented by Iain Gillespie at the Genomics Forum, on Thursday 17 November 2011 from 3.30pm.
Attendance is Free but please register for this event by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0131 651 4747
Further information is also available from Collaborative Mechanisms for Intellectual Property Management in the Life Sciences, OECD 2011
IntroductionBright Ideas Fellow compares regulation on stem cells
Fabiana Arzuaga is Professor of Regulation of Biotechnology and Patent Law at The Latin American School of Social Sciences - FLACSO and is visiting the Genomics Forum as a Bright Ideas research fellow.
Argentina is in the process of preparing a stem cell law and fashioning a new regulatory regime for research and stem cell banking. Fabiana is the Chair of the Argentine Advisory Commission on Regenerative Medicine & Cellular Therapies that is currently preparing a Bill on stem cells for consideration by the Argentine National Congress.
While in Edinburgh, Fabiana will prepare a report on the UK stem cell regulatory landscape seeking to identify how Argentina might shape laws and regulatory regimes to avoid some of the problems that are being experienced in the UK.
"Examining the instruments, institutions and processes connected with stem cells in the UK I am hoping to identify strengths and weakness, successes and failures." explained Fabiana.
"I wish to explore how stem cells are characterised and what the consequences of those characterisations are for the triggering or engaging different regulatory pathways, and what the choice of pathway means for innovation and commercialisation of this life science area."
As part of this research Fabiana will be conducting short interviews with a variety of UK-based stakeholders including researchers from Roslin Cells, the University of Edinburgh, representatives and members of the Scottish Stem Cells Network, and social science researchers working in this field, particularly those from SCRIPT (Shepherd and Wedderburn Centre for Research in Intellectual Property and Technology), Innogen, and ISSTI.
Together with contributing to her work on Argentina's Stem Cell Bill the report will also be provided to the Argentine Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health.
At the end this month long Fellowship Fabiana will present an interactive expert workshop - . This invitation only event organised by the ESRC Genomics Forum and SCRIPT and held at the Forum on the 7-8 November 2011 will focus on the work pursued jointly between Argentina and Edinburgh since 2007.
IntroductionCheck out the Genomics Networks events at the ERSC Festival of Social Science 2011
The ESRC Festival of Social Science - 29 October 5 November 2011 - offers a fascinating range of free events providing an insight into leading social science research and how it influences our lives—both now and in the future.
The ESRC Genomics Network is delighted to be hosting five very different public engagements as part of the Festival.
We hope you can join us.
'Translation: From Bench to Brain' Exhibition - 31 October to 4 November - BayArt Gallery, Cardiff
'Vampires and Vegetarianism in the 21st Century’ Public discussion - Tuesday 1 November - Rich Mix, London
'Transience and transformation’ Workshop - Wednesday 2 November - Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Film screening and debate - Thursday 3 November - Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
The Ethics of Artificial Meat – Philosophy Café – Friday 4 November - The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff
For details on all these Network events visit our 2011 Festival of Social Science event page
Explore over 130 Festival events around the UK at the ESRC Festival of Social Science website.
IntroductionForum staff attend the Traverse Salon Project.
Matthias Wienroth, Academic Research Fellow at the Fourm was one of the invited guest presenters at the dress rehearsal of the Salon Project at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh on Friday 7 October 2011.
This innovative event transforms the Traverse theatre—and its audience—creating another era, complete with chamber music and speakers commenting on subjects at the vanguard of 21st century thought in science, politics, technology and the arts.
Visit our Flickr site to see images of our team at The Salon Project 2011
Sadly this exciting event is sold out, but watch the BBC Scotland - Salon project news item for a glimpse of what the audience will experience.
The Travserse Theatre website offers full details on The Salon Project.
Issued 06.10.2011: released 06.10.2011
IntroductionOn Friday 7 October, Dr Matthias Wienroth will be one of the guest speakers at The Salon Project.
The Salon Project theatre production is showing at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre this October.
Speaking on ‘The Future’, Matthias is delighted to be participating. "The Salon Project is a unique opportunity to engage with an eclectic audience and discuss key issues for the 21st century—and beyond—in a 19th century setting. Imagine discussing something like space travel at the time of Jules Verne’s visionary novel From the Earth to the Moon in 1865: scientifically informed, exceedingly exciting, and certainly controversial and provocative. Whilst we may have been to the moon in the meantime, there are many more visions to be explored. The Salon Project is contemporary theatre at its most innovative. I look forward to a stimulating dialogue."
The Salon Project has been created by Glasgow based theatre company Untitled Projects. The audience will be costumed in late 19th century dress before entering the theatre which is being transformed into an opulent Belle Epoque Parisian salon, for an evening of conversation and music. The Salon Project promises to offer audiences "the opportunity to explore the past while imagining the future, to mirror the contrasts and paradoxes between the golden age of salon society and our own era of economic excess."
IntroductionThe Genomics Forum is delighted to welcome Mairi Levitt as a Bright Ideas Fellow.
Mairi Levitt is a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University where she works on empirical bioethics.
She joins the Forum as a Bright Ideas Fellow until 11 November 2011.
With a particular research interest in the practical and policy implications of genetic research and technologies, Mairi’s initial work on crime was a Cesagen funded project entitled ‘Criminal Genes and Public Policy’. Some professionals rightly predicted that, whether or not research findings were robust, defence teams would try to use genetic information in court if they felt it would help their clients.
This led Mairi to consider whether an increasing emphasis on genetic influences on health and behaviour, both in research and the media, is mirrored in public perceptions of the role of nature and nurture in behaviour and in the way people of different ages construct narratives about their own self-formation.
With further support from Cesagen in 2010 she undertook a pilot study ‘Perceptions of Nature and Nurture’ which involved collecting data from around 80 people on this topic, using interviews and open-ended questionnaires.
Mairi will be focussing on this research while at the Forum. “I studied at Edinburgh University, first in New College and then in the Sociology Department, so it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to return.” commented Mairi.
“During my time here I will be looking at people’s characterisation of the influence of nature and nurture in their own lives, and in their explanations for the behaviour of children and adults. In my pilot study respondents were asked to consider the assigning of responsibility in cases where there were potentially mitigating environmental or genetic factors. I will be comparing their perspectives with philosophical and legal literature on responsibility for criminal offences.
“It has already been suggested that the criminal law is lagging behind developments in genetics and neuroscience but public understandings will be critical to the acceptance of any changes to legal policy and practice in this area. It is particularly useful to be working on this topic in Edinburgh given the distinctiveness of the criminal justice system in Scotland, including the treatment of young offenders; the Forum’s links to researchers and policy makers in this area and the resources of the National Library of Scotland.”
Visit Mairi Levitt’s profile page for more on her work.
IntroductionHave your say on genes, ancestry and racial identity.
Throughout 2011 the Progress Educational Trust (PET) has been running a Wellcome Trust-supported project, 'Genes, ancestry and racial identity: Does it matter where your genes come from?'. The project, which was conceived as a response to the increasing prominence of controversies concerning genetics and 'race' and of direct-to-consumer genetic tests which purport to reveal where one's ancestors come from, is now concluding with an online poll.
This is your chance to participate in the 'Genes, Ancestry and Racial Identity' project and help PET to gauge public and professional understanding of the connection (or lack of connection) between race and genetics.
There’s more about the project and the work of the Progress Education Trust on the BioNews website.
IntroductionResident Playwright Peter Arnott stages a debate on genomics.
Who's View of Life? Or, Men and Monkeys Revisited
Friday 30 September, 7.30pm
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Peter Arnott is an award winning playwright and was appointed as the Genomics Forum/Traverse Theatre Resident Playwright in April 2011. During this year long residency Peter will be hosting a series of public dramatised debates centred on genomics and borader life sceinces.
Who's View of Life? Or, Men and Monkeys Revisited is the first in this series and will be performed by Peter along with actors Ros Sydney and Mark McDonnell. During this event, centred around the Scopes Monkey Trial held in Tennessee in 1925, they will interrogate the texts that define existence as we know it, or don't know it and challenge the audience to consider their views.
Tickets - Cost £6 Available online from the Traverse Theatre Box Office or by calling the Box Office on 0131 228 1404
Full event details in the press release - Traverse Playwright Provokes Debate on Genomics, Genetics and Evolution
IntroductionConference reports and videos now available.
The Gengage Annual Network Conference, ‘Your Genes and Clinical Research – Being more than a Guinea Pig?’ was held in collaboration with the Royal Society of Edinburgh in June 2011.
Exploring issues around public and patient involvement in clinical research, the conference successfully engaged a wide range of interested delegates.
Professor Neva Haites, Head of the College of Life Sciences and Medicine, University of Aberdeen, opened the conference and Professor Anne Glover Chief Scientific Advisor at Scottish Government presented the keynote address.
The full conference report together with videos and slide presentations are now available.
Gengage - The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network - is managed by the Genomics Forum.
IntroductionA new Academic Research Fellow at ESRC Genomics Forum
With a background in the social study of science and technology Dr Matthias Wienroth joins the Forum Team as an Academic Research Fellow.
"This appointment gives me the opportunity to bring together my interests in emergent science and technology fields, their practices and governance, and the engagement with science through art,” comments Matthias. “thus building on, and developing further the Forum's important work. I look forward to working with colleagues in the Forum and Network, and at the University of Edinburgh."
Earlier this year, Matthias completed a Durham University-based ethnographic research project on the UK governance of innovation by policy intermediaries. Since August 2011, he has worked alongside a medical engineer and an ethicist at the University of Newcastle on public engagement and co-enquiry work with patients about failed medical devices. Matthias will continue this work alongside his appointment at the Forum.
Visit Matthias Wienroth's Staff profile page for more information on his work.
IntroductionJoin us for an exciting dramatic lecture from our Resident Playwright
Tickets are now on sale for:
Whose view of Life? - Men and Monkeys Revisited
Friday 30 September 2011, 7.30pm
Tickets - Cost £6
Available online from the Traverse Theatre box office or by calling the Box Office on 0131 228 1404
In 1925 when Tennessee schoolteacher John Scopes was put on trial for teaching Darwin’s ideas, it was supposed to be the final showdown between creation and evolution. But over 80 years later the battle is as fierce as ever. Using key documents, and re-examining the famous play Inherit the Wind as well as current controversies, Peter Arnott works with a small group of actors to embody an argument at the heart of genomics, genetics and evolution; to find the threads and interrogate the texts that define existence as we know it...or don’t know it.
Men and Monkeys Revisited is the first in this series of documentary drama events featuring actors, Peter and an assembled panel of experts.
is and award winning playwright and was appointed as the Genomics Forum/Traverse Theatre Resident Playwright in April 2011. During this year long residency Peter will be exploring and researching the world of genetics and the life sciences as he gathers material for a genomics related play.
IntroductionGenomics Forum blogs and author interviews direct from the Edinburgh Book Festival now available.
The ESRC Genomics Forum Writers team including Pippa Goldschmidt and Ken MacLeod, and Resident Playwright, Peter Arnott, will be providing Genotype blog reports and author interviews throughout the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
To see the latest visit Genotype - Book festival.
In addition to our own three Festival Events, Professor Steve Yearley, ESRC Genomics Forum Director is participating in two further activities.
The New Scientist, held on Sunday 21 August at 5pm will see Professor Yearley chairing a panel debate on Scotland’s place in the contemporary science world.
On Friday 26 August he will introduce Alistair Moffat who will be will be talking about his book The Scots: A Genetic Journey in Unravelling Scotland's DNA.
IntroductionThe Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011 opens its doors this weekend (13-14 August) and the ESRC Genomics Forum looks forward to staging three highly topical debates.
For the sixth year running that the ESRC Genomics Forum is sponsoring a series of debates at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
For details read our press release - Debates from Adolescence to Altruism at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
You can also enjoy reports, pictures and author interviews direct from the Festival thanks to our team of Forum writers by visiting our Genotype blog
IntroductionSeminar from our recent Bright Ideas Fellow John H. Evans now available on Forum’s You Tube Channel.
A capacity audience attended Quasi-Religious Arguments in Social Debates About New Technologies held at the ESRC Genomics Forum on 4 August 2011.
Watch John's seminar on the ESRC Genomics Netowrk YouTube channel - Quasi-Religious Arguments in Social Debates About New Technologies - Prof John H. Evans
Read our Resident Playwright Peter Arnott's blog on the discussions that followed at - Genotype - God on the Bus
Explore our new dedicated YouTube channel to access the full range of audio visual outputs created across the ESRC Genomics Network.
IntroductionTicket Giveaway for Book Festival debate for young adults.
Edinburgh International Book Festival Young Adults Debate: Surviving Adolescence: Do Drugs Work?Monday 15 August 2011 4pm - 5pm
FREE TICKETS are still available through Facebook
You have until 10pm on Friday 12 August 2011 to request your Free tickets.
Visit our Genomics Forum Facebook page and secure up to two tickets (don't worry you don't need a Facebook account)
For full event details see: Young Adults Debate: Surviving Adolescence: Do Drugs Work? – 15 August 2011
IntroductionA philosophers take on climate change is reviewed by Genomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley in the current edition of Times Higher Education.
Can a philosophical approach to the climate issue have a practical impact? asks Steve Yearley as he reviews Stephen M. Gardiner’s new book ‘A Perfect Moral Storm: the Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change’.
In his review for Times Higher Education Steve comments "Philosophers and students of ethics are famed for the lurid and complex scenarios they invent to test out their ethical principles…. Admittedly, the rhetoric of the “perfect storm” is perhaps becoming too familiar. The UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir John Beddington, is already using the term to draw our attention to the overlapping effects of anticipated food, water and energy shortages. But for Gardiner, climate change represents a perfect moral storm, in that prosperous people today are knowingly imposing large burdens on poor people, on the biosphere and on future generations, and knowingly not doing much to reform our collective behaviour.”
Read the full review online - The Times Higher Education Magazine - Saving the world – Dashwood style
‘A Perfect Moral Storm: the Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change’ by Stephen M. Gardiner was published 14 July 2011 by Oxford University Press
ISBN 97801953794 0
IntroductionRead Genomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley's review of the winner of the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize 2011.
'Mao's Great Famine' by Dutch academic Frank Dikötter and was announced (6 July 2011) as the winner of the 2011 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. The book chronicles an era in Chinese history much speculated about but never before fully documented.
In his review for Food Security Steve Yearley writes "This book stands out from other accounts of the famine inflicted on China from 1958-61 on account of its basis in recently opened archives and in the countless compelling details which are provided to clarify the interlocking themes of the text. The scope of the text is enormous but it returns repeatedly to the stories of individual villages and villagers, people whose letters of complaint are recorded in archives across China."
Read the full review at Food Security Journal - Book Review Frank Dikötter, Mao’s Great Famine by Steven Yearley
IntroductionThe ESRC Genomics Forum is delighted to be sponsoring a series of panel debates as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011.
The ESRC Genomics Forum has been sponsoring events at the world's largest, and perhaps most celebrated, book festival for the last six years. In 2011 we are excited to once again be able to support three debates and anticipate lively audience participation as our panel discuss altruism in `The Kindness of Strangers’ with author Oren Harman; our ability to alter human biology in `Natural v Unnatural’ with author Philip Ball; and in a special event for young adults, in the company of children’s writer Nicola Morgan, we explore the use of drugs including Ritalin to modify teenage behaviour.
For full event details see
Such has been the anticpation surrounding this years events that one of our events `The Kindness of Strangers' with Oren Hrman sold out on the first day of ticket sales!
However, if you are looking to get involved all is not lost.
Thanks to our Forum Writers in Residence and , and our new resident Playwright, we look forward to bringing you Genotype blog reports and author interviews direct from the Festival.
Tickets for all events and further details on the complete programme are available through Edinburgh International Book Festival 2011.
IntroductionMore that just a guinea pig?Your Genes and Clinical Research
The Scottish Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Anne Glover, offered the keynote address at the Gengage Conference Wednesday 22 June 2011.
Before the conference she spoke with the BBC and highlighted ambitions for Scotland to benifit from Clinical Research.
Listen to Professor Glover on Good Morning Scotland via the BBC I Player (between 1.47.01 - 1.51.02)
And read Poor health, rich pickings by Douglas Fraser the BBC's Business and economy editor, Scotland
This free public one-day conference, sponsored by Gengage, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Edinburgh, will explore social issues and other topics around public and patient involvement in clinical research.
Read the conference press release - More that just a guinea pig? - Gengage Conference 2011
For further programme and speaker information visit Gengage Conference 2011
Following the conference this website will also host details of the presentation and workshop discussions.
Gengage (The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network) brings together, promotes and supports individuals and organisations working in Scotland to increase public awareness, dialogue and debate on issues to do with healthcare genetics. We connect healthcare professionals and patient groups, science communicators and public engagement practitioners as well as social scientists and other academics. The Scottish Government Health Department funds Gengage's activities in response to the recommendations of the Review of Genetics in relation to Healthcare in Scotland chaired by Sir Kenneth Calman and published in 2006. Gengage is managed by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum based at the University of Edinburgh.
IntroductionGenomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley reviews `The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change' for The Times Higher Education Magazine.
"Pub-quiz enthusiasts may well know what I did not:" writes Steve Yearley "that the late Gary Comer, the seriously wealthy founder of the Lands' End clothing company, was also an excellent photographer and discerning funder of climate-change research, especially in Greenland. This very handsome book presents almost 80 photographs of Greenland's glaciers and mountains - with many of the best shots taken by Comer himself - along with detailed, well-written accounts of the scientific insights associated with the field trips that Comer supported. It is both a memorial to Comer and a long, thoughtful essay on the character and causes of sudden climate change."
Read the full review at The Times Higher Education Magazine - The Fate of Greenland
The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change by Philip Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker and George Denton was published by MIT Press on 5 June 2011.
IntroductionDr Emma Frow, Genomics Forum Research Fellow joins delegates at SB5.0: the Fifth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology.
A sell-out crowd of over 700 delegates will attend SB5.0 held at Stanford University, California USA from 15-17 June 2011. This scientific conference is unusual in inviting contributions from social scientists who have been studying the field and working with synthetic biologists. Emma Frow and colleague Jane Calvert from Innogen are going to the conference to present some of their ongoing research into some of the broader social dimensions of synthetic biology.
"We are presenting a conference poster entitled 'The Future(s) of Synthetic Biology', which reports back on interactive workshops that we held at synthetic biology conferences in 2008 and 2009" explained Emma. "The aim of these workshops was to get synthetic biologists to explore possible trajectories for the field, and it's nice to be able to present the findings back to the community."
Emma also helps to coordinate the UK Synthetic Biology Standards Network, a research network of synthetic biologists from several UK universities. The SynBioStandards Network will be supporting about 15 PhD students and researchers to attend SB5.0 - visit www.synbiostandards.ac.uk in the coming weeks to read their reflections on the world's largest meeting of synthetic biologists.
Visit for more on her work on Synthetic Biology.
Issued 09.06.2011: released 09.06.2011
IntroductionProfessor Francis Lee, of Linköping University is the first in an exciting list of Summer Bright Ideas Fellows visiting the Genomics Forum.
- presented by Professor Lee, at 3.30pm on Thursday 9 June 2011 at the Genomics Forum marks the start of a new series of summer presentations by visiting Bright Ideas Fellows.The Forum's Bright Ideas Programme of flexible fellowships offer individuals a quiet environment in which to work and freedom from other constraints, whilst creating a stimulating and lively mix of scholars and artists with diverse interests centred on genomics. Other visiting summer Fellows include Jack Stilgoe, Senior Policy Adviser at the Royal Society and John Evans, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California at San Diego. For further details on who is visiting, activities that you can attend, or for information on the scheme, including an application form, visit the Genomics Forum Bright Ideas Fellows 2011
IntroductionBridging the gap between research, policy and practice: The importance of intermediaries (knowledge brokers) in producing research impact
Proposals are invited for a conference to take place in London, 7 December 2011, on “knowledge brokers” – intermediaries whose role is to promote the use of academic research by non-academics, including policymakers, professionals, charitable organisations, business, industry and the general public.
Proposals may relate to any aspect of knowledge brokerage – the facilitation of knowledge exchange by intermediary individuals or organisations. We are keen to include contributions from both knowledge exchange practitioners and researchers – for instance, project presentations and case studies as well as traditional academic papers.
Submissions may include proposals for:
- Posters (research or project)
- Individual presentations (can have multiple authors)
- Panels (3-4 presentations around a single theme)
- Roundtables (informal discussion with several leaders on a particular topic)
- Workshops (interactive session providing some training and opportunity for collective thought and creativity)
The focus of this event is knowledge exchange in the social sciences, but there will be sessions available for discussion of knowledge exchange in other fields (for instance, the sciences, arts and humanities). You are encouraged to submit a proposal no matter what discipline you work in.
IntroductionPeter Arnott, Residence Playwright at the Genomics Forum blogs about his new role.
Appointed in partnership with the Edinburgh Traverse Theatre this year long residency will see Peter based at the Genomics Forum until April 2012.
As Peter explores the world of genomics, researching areas of work and uncovering stories and interesting facts, he will be offering you the chance to join him on his voyage of discovery through his regular blog postings.
IntroductionDuring May 2011 Genomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley has been participating in a number of climate change related activities.
Climate Connections Linking Climate Change Research – held on Friday 13 May 2011 - explored the role that climate-related knowledge networks can play in shaping understanding of, and responses to, climate change within a rural context. Acting as a facilitator Steve was helping to link research activities to practice.
A brief report that summarises activity across research networks for climate change in rural areas in Scotland will be produced for the Scottish Government, policy makers and users of research and other professionals. For more details visit the Climate Connections website.
Unpicking objectivity, impartiality and neutrality: must scientists be activists in the environmental arena? - was prompted by recent reviews of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which suggested - among other things - that the IPCC was in danger of being perceived as too activist, and that "pro-environmentalist" claims and assertions had sometimes not been scrutinised critically enough. In his talk, Steve set out the issues facing today’s scientists in conceptual terms, drawing on the philosophy of science and science and technology studies, and then examining the question further through case-study examples.
Visit Steve Yearley's profile page for more details on his activities.
IntroductionView striking images of Genomics Forum Director, Steve Yearley as his work as the lead sociologist on the EU Zoos-XX1 project found him joining a Swedish wolf pack at Kolmården Zoo.
View images at our flickr website - Dances with Wolves? - Kolmården Zoo, Sweden
The wolf pack is at Kolmården Zoo, Sweden a EUZoos-XX1 project partner - this innovative project aims to use citizen engagement strategies to promote social learning around four leading aspects of nature conservation: Invasive Alien Species; Biodiversity; Ecological Connectivity; and Endangered Species.
Among the project activities is the novel idea of involving public groups in designing a zoo exhibit or installation around a theme tied to biodiversity. All four European partner zoos and marine parks will offer at least one such publicly-shaped exhibit.
Steve Yearley was in Sweden to help with the practicalities of the zoo's first public engagement exercise.
Learn more at the EUZoos-XX1 Project website.
IntroductionThe ESRC Genomics Forum in partnership with the Edinburgh Traverse Theatre is delighted to welcome Peter Arnott as Resident Playwright in a new joint artistic venture.
Peter Arnott, an award winning playwright who began his career at the Traverse in 1985 with White Rose (which also launched the career of actress Tilda Swinton) will be the first Resident Playwright to be based within the Genomics Forum.
A key role for the Forum is knowledge exchange: exploring novel means to promote social research on the contemporary life sciences by engaging a diverse range of audiences. This Residency will seek to build on the success of previous events and dialogues involving artists, scientists and social researchers including Writers in Residence - Ken MacLeod and Pippa Goldschmidt and Artist in Residence - Alistair Gentry.
It is hoped that working alongside Forum members, attending events and meeting with experts and fellows across the Genomics Network will inspire the creation of a genomics related play.
During the year long residency the ambition is to offer the public access to this creative process as Peter develops ideas and genomics as a theatrical subject is explored.
Read Resident Playwright press release - Forging Links Between the Worlds of Science and Art
IntroductionThe latest edition of the newsletter of the ESRC Genomics Network is available to view and download online.
In addition to our regular research updates and centre news the gen - the newsletter of the ESRC Genomics Network March 2011 edition features:
- The Social Science of the Genome - held for the first time in partnership with the OECD a report on the productive annual ESRC Genomics Network Conference.
- OnCoreUK: The £4m Cancer Bank that Closed - exploring the funding strategies and issues associated with human tissue banks.
- The Human Face of Data-Intensive Biology - how do researchers in biosciences use, store, and access the staggering amounts of valuable data produced?
- Pushing the Boundaries at Innogen - a new feature highlighting the distinctive contribution made by each of the centres to the Network.
- Winning Poem Offers a New Twist on ‘improving the human’ - enjoy the winning entry from our Genomics Forum Poetry Competition.
The ESRC Genomics Network newsletter is free and published twice a year. Our new on-line version offers all the same great content, in exactly the same layout, but now includes additional weblinks offering you further access to information.
To receive your own electronic or print copy please contact: email@example.com
IntroductionThe ESRC Genomics Network Genetics and Society Book Series - Five exciting new titles for 2011.
The provides an outlet for outstanding scholarship in the multiple fields of genetics and genomics social sciences research. Over the course of 2011 the series will be publishing five exciting new titles.Barcoding Nature - Waterton, Ellis and Wynne. Documenting new configurations between the knowledge cultures and practices of the taxonomic, biodiversity and computing sciences in relation to genomics.Biomedicine is one of the primary areas covered by the Series, and the other new titles for 2011 reflect the increasing diversity of social science approaches to genetics and related biosciences.Making of a Syndrome - Featherstone and Atkinson. Provides a rich exploration of the processes by which Rett Syndrome has been reconfigured as a genetic disease.Genetic Testing - Arribas-Allyon, Sarangi and Clarke. Draws out the complex interplay between the discourses of autonomy, responsibility and blame within a range of settings from clinic, to internet, to media. Gender and Genetics - Reed. Offers a unique analysis of the role of men and the gendered nature of prenatal genetic screening. Scientific, Clinical and Commercial Development of the Stem Cell - Kraft. Looks at the past, present and future of the stem cell and its iconic role in the formation of biomedicine.
IntroductionFour short videos featuring staff from across the Network.
Our new dedicated YouTube channel has been developed to help improve access to the range of audio visual outputs created across the ESRC Genomics Network.
Initial highlights include a series of four short films introducing the network, discussing its development and the current range of activities.
- Introducing the ESRC Genomics Network Run time 3.53
Focusing on the creation of the network and development of the Genomics Network Research Themes- Science, Technology and Innovation- Governance, Regulation and Public Interest- Biomedicine, Health and Identity- Transforming Nature
- Genomics and Society Run time 5.43
This generation has access to unparalleled individual and shared genetic information. We examine why this is a critical time to study genomics and society.
- Genomics Network, Centres and Forum Run time 6.54
The ESRC Genomics Network is Cesagen, Egenis and Innogen examining the social and economic significance of genomics and, with the Forum, connecting this research with policy and public engagement. This film explains how working together as the ESRC Genomics Network gives each of the four centres strengths and opportunities they would not enjoy working alone.
- International Impact Run time 6.14
The Genomics Network is proud to work in collaboration with over 30 countries worldwide, and present research which influences policy and decision making at a global level. Here we highlight some key international activities.
IntroductionFor a deliberative event on brain donation and brain banking.
Science Centre, Glasgow 2.30 – 5.00 pm Friday, 4 March 2011Should we donate our brains for research after we die? If so, what sort of procedures should be put in place to ensure that they are used as we would wish?Numerous brain banks exist across the UK but should researchers be allowed to conduct genetic research on donated human brains? And what if donated brain material gives rise to commercial gain?You are invited to attend this free event as experts explore `What should happen to your brain after you die?’A series of short presentations will be followed by facilitated round-table discussions where the audience will be given the chance to 'vote' on a number of key questions on brain donation and brain banking.A closing reception offers an opportunity to chat to the speakers, enjoy a glass of wine and nibbles, and explore the first floor science mall.Organised by Gengage, The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network this event is FREE but must be booked in advance. Visit events at www.gengage.org.uk or call - 0131 6514750.
Gengage - The Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network managed by the
-----------------------------------------------For interviews or further details contact:Jane Wilkin, Gengage Network Co-ordinator – Tel: 0131 651 4750Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
IntroductionThe Genomics Forum is delighted to announce the launch of a new artistic venture.
In partnership with the Edinburgh Traverse Theatre an experienced Resident Playwright will be based within the Genomics Forum during 2011.
Continuing our success in engagements involving writers and artists with scientist and social researchers, we hope working alongside Forum members will inspire the creation of a genomics related play. Our ambition is to offer access to the creative process as the playwright works towards offering a showing of this new work in 2012.
Applications are invited from senior experienced playwrights who have had at least two professional stage productions of their plays.
Closing date 5pm on 15th February 2011
For further information visit the Traverse Theatre website >>
IntroductionWinners of the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition were announced during a reception held on Saturday 29 January 2011 at the Scottish Poetry Library.
Visitors were able to chat with the winners and judges before enjoying readings of selected winning and shortlisted entries.First Prize: Sophie Cooke, Edinburgh - Forward Deck (PDF 12 KB)Second Prize: Nina Boyd, Yorkshire - Digital (PDF 9 KB)Third Prize: Russell Jones, Edinburgh - Chromosome Medley (PDF 13 KB)Honourable mentions (in no order):
- Scott Edward Anderson - Improving the Human: The Poet Gene (PDF 12 KB)
- Katie Gooch- Made (PDF 15 KB)
- Ron Howland - One of those (PDF 11 KB)
- Ami Roseingrave - Unchained melody of genes (PDF 12 KB)
- Tony Williams - Improvements (PDF 11 KB)
Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition received over 200 entries from across the globe including America, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Uganda and India.
A competition report (PDF 22 KB) was complied by the judging panel consisting of (writer and Genomics Forum Writer in Residence) the inspiration behind the competition, Kona Macphee (poet), (Director ESRC Genomics Forum) and Peggy Hughes (Communications Officer, Scottish Poetry Library).
Read Poetry Competition press release -
Photo of Sophie Cook and Steve SturdyCredit Chris ScottBiographies of Prize Winners
Sophie Cooke is an Edinburgh-based poet, short story writer, and novelist. Her poetry has previously appeared in the magazines Product and Gutter. She performed at the recent Hidden Door festival in the Roxy Art House. Sophie's novels The Glass House and Under The Mountain have been published by Random House; The Glass House being shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. Her short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and magazines, and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. This is the first time she has been shortlisted for a poetry prize. Sophie is originally from Callander, in Stirlingshire, and studied at the University of Edinburgh. She currently lives in Newington. Further details at www.myspace.com/sophiecooke
Nina Boyd lives in Huddersfield, where she is an active member of a thriving poetry community. She was the overall winner of the 2009 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition. Her first collection, Dear Mr Asquith, was published by Smith/Doorstop Books in 2010. For more information visit www.ninaboyd.com
Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and researcher. He is currently investigating the science fiction poetry of Edwin Morgan whilst tutoring in Scottish Literature at Edinburgh University. Russell's collection of science fiction poems, The Last Refuge, was published in 2009 (Forest Press) and his work has won recognition in a number of international competitions including the Eric Gregory Award (2007),The Bridport Prize (2007-2009) and the Writer’s Bureau Poetry Competition (2010). Russell's research interests are in contemporary poetry and poetic form and he has given talks across the UK on the interactions of science and literature. He currently co-moderates writersdock.org 's poetry department and writes articles on children's literature for therustykey.com . His ramblings can be followed on his blog: poetrusselljones.blogspot.com
IntroductionGengage (the Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network) is looking for an enthusiastic individual to join the team.
Visit our page for further details and download an application form on the University of Edinburgh jobs website >>
Gengage has been created "to be a formal, funded network which not only brings together all those from a variety of backgrounds who have an interest in enhancing public engagement with genetics, but that in particular provides a means of bringing together all those in social science and the humanities around Scotland who are working in this area."It is based at the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum at the University of Edinburgh under the management of its Deputy Director and a Network Officer.Flexible working is acceptable provided that a good level of communication is maintained between the post-holder and the Network Officer. The post is part-time.
Closing date: 31 January 2011
IntroductionPress Notice highlighting the start of this year's annual EGN conference.
The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Genomics Network (EGN) - the world’s largest concentration of social scientific research in the field of genomics - and the OECD will explore ‘Delivering Global Promise Through the Life Sciences’ at the OECD Headquarters in Paris on Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 December 2010.
Read the Genomics Forum press release -
IntroductionWe are supporting the annual biomedical ethics film festival held at Edinburgh Filmhouse.
The Genomics Forum is delighted to once again support the annual biomedical ethics film festival held at Edinburgh Filmhouse, 26 - 28 November 2010.
Do modern genetics at last allow us to understand where psychiatric disorders spring from? Will there soon be new forms of remedy? Is it ethical to propose forms of pre-natal screening for mental health problems? And how do clinicians handle the issue of consent with patients suffering from profound psychiatric problems. These are some of the issues that will be discussed at the Psychiatry Ethics Film Festival, held at Edinburgh Filmhouse from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 November 2010.
Read the Genomics Forum press release -
Graphicimg src="http://www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/media/dros.gif" alt="Drosophila Cloud" style="width : 40px; height : 40px;" />
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley to present on the potential applications of nanotechnology in food.
On behalf of the Food Standards Agency, TNS-BMRB have been asked to conduct a study on consumer attitudes regarding the use of nanotechnology in food. There are a range of potential application areas they will be exploring, including its use for smart packaging, smart food and food fortification. As part of the debate, TNS_BMRB have invited Professor Steve Yearley to get involved, to act as a specialist discussing nanotechnology, its uses and wider implications. Steve will be giving a presentation on the potential applications of nanotechnology in food and/or issues around this at a workshop in Edinburgh on 14th December.
For more information visit - www.tns-bmrb.co.uk
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley, will discuss the possible benefits and the potential risks of synthetic biology as part of a the Manchester Science Festival event - Artificial Life: Promises and Pitfalls
Now that the synthesis of ‘artificial life’ seems so close, Professor Yearley will join leading life scientist Professor Ron Weiss (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and philosopher of biology Dr. Maureen O’Malley (University of Exeter) to consider what the new field of synthetic biology means, the opportunities it offers, and the social, economic and ethical implications of the engineering of life.
`Artificial Life: Promises and Pitfalls'
Tuesday 26 October 2010 6 - 8pm
John Dalton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University
To hear what the experts have to say and participate in the follow-on Q&A Reserve a free ticket at http://syntheticlife.eventbrite.com
Manchester Science Festival - Saturday 23 to Sunday 31 October 2010 www.manchestersciencefestival.com
IntroductionGlobal response to Genomics Forum Poetry Competition
National Poetry Day - 7 Oct 2010 – is the deadline for entries to the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition.
Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition invited writers to consider the theme of `improving the human`.
A decade since the first unravelling and mapping of the human genome was hailed as the start of a new era, not just in health and medicine but in the way we experience and understand our very selves, this competition invited writers to consider the effects.
Judges Gwyneth Lewis (Wales’s National Poet 2005-06), Peggy Hughes Scottish Poetry Library, and Professor Steve Yearley, Director ESRC Genomics Forum will be considering over 100 poems before announcing the winners at the end of November.
Pippa Goldschmidt writer-in-residence at the Genomics Forum in 2009 was the inspiration behind this Poetry competition. Genotype (The Genomics Forum's blog) offers her latest posting on the truly global response to the competition.
IntroductionThe September 2010 issue of "the gen" is now available for download
Read the new edition of the
This autumn, our feature articles highlight what EGN social science researchers can offer both the UK and international policy making processes.
We also wish the human genome a happy 10th birthday, offer ways to navigate the data deluge that accompanies today’s research practices, argue the case for social science funding and investigate whether pills mean progress.
IntroductionResults of the Genomics Forum's public dialogue on synthetic biology using the Democs tool are now available.
In 2007, the ESRC Genomics Forum received a small grant from the Scottish Government to undertake public engagement activities relating to synthetic biology, an emerging scientific discipline that is receiving considerable media and policy attention. We have used this grant to develop a version of Democs, a public dialogue tool, which was rolled out in Scotland and England between November 2009 and March 2010. You can read a summary and full report of the dialogue here:
Democs Synthetic Biology Report Summary (PDF 254KB)
Democs stands for ‘Deliberative Meetings Of Citizens.’ It is a card ‘game’ that allows a small group to find out about an issue, discuss it, seek common ground, and give their views. No prior knowledge of the issue is needed, and no ‘experts’ need be present to run the activity. Democs can also be used to feed into policy consultations – a version was specially developed for use in the 2003 ‘GM Nation’ debate.
Democs games are licensed under Creative Commons. You can download the cards, instructions and other components of the game here, or for a printed kit, please email Dr Christine Knight, project manager at the Genomics Forum, at email@example.com (tel 0131 651 4743).
Democs was devised by nef (the new economics foundation) in 2001. This Synthetic Biology Democs game was commissioned by the Genomics Forum, and funded by the Scottish Government with additional support from the Genomics Forum. The game was developed by independent consultant Dr Donald Bruce (Edinethics Ltd), in collaboration with Perry Walker (nef).
IntroductionThe Forum is delighted to announce a brand new writing competition for budding poets in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library.
‘improving the human’ - Humanity+poetry
The human genome has been unravelled and mapped. Genes responsible for different illnesses and conditions are being identified. Will this information improve the human and help us avoid disease and death? And does this desire to be perfect mask something more sinister – a lack of empathy for the imperfect? Will this lead to a genetic divide between rich and poor? Do we even want to live for ever? Or, like the Sibyl, do we think that death gives life its meaning?
Thomas Hardy was inspired by germ plasm theory (the forerunner to genetics) to write ‘Heredity’;
… that is I;
The eternal thing in man,
That heeds no call to die.
Are you similarly inspired?
Write a poem of no more than 50 lines on the theme of ‘improving the human’.
- The deadline for entries is 7 October 2010 (National Poetry Day)
- The judges are Gwyneth Lewis (Wales’s National Poet 2005-06), Peggy Hughes at the Scottish Poetry Library, and Professor Steve Yearley, (director of the Genomics Forum)
- Poems should not have been published or accepted for publication elsewhere
- Entrants can be of any nationality. Entrants can only submit one poem.
Send your poems to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send your poem as an attachment to your email, and ensure that the attachment contains only the poem and poem title (if using a title) but no other identification. In the body of the email, please list your name, contact details and poem title (or first line of poem, if you do not wish to give it a title).
Winners will be contacted in November 2010 and a list of winning entries will be posted on the Genomics Forum website by the end of November.
A selection of the winning and shortlisted poems will be published in a special publication of the Forum in 2010.
The Scottish Poetry Library will host an evening of poetry readings based on the winning entries.
First prize is £500, second prize is £200, and third prize is £100.
Copyright remains with the author, but the Genomics Forum has the right to publish winning poems on its website and in a special publication.
More information is available on previous and our .
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley has been invited to serve as an international adviser to the American Sociological Association's (ASA) ‘Task Force on Sociology and Global Climate Change’ which starts work later this year.
In February 2010, the ASA decided to establish a Task Force to produce a report applying a sociological analysis to the issue of climate change. The Task Force will make a series of public policy recommendations based on that analysis. The Task Force will be chaired by Professor Riley E. Dunlap, Regents Professor of Environmental Sociology, Social Movements, Survey Research Oklahoma State University.Commenting on his appointment, Professor Yearley said,
"We cannot meaningfully analyse climate change issues without thinking about their roots in the way that society is organised - the ways we commute, consume and communicate, for example.
"This initiative by the ASA is very timely and all the more important because it stems from the USA , historically the largest contributor to climate changing emissions. I am delighted to have been invited to participate as an adviser to the Task Force and am confident that the Task Force can offer important new insights for responding to these emerging problems."
IntroductionThe Forum is looking forward to a lively discussion exploring the controversial issue of using DNA testing to determine the nationality of asylum seekers at its 'Judged by Genetics?' event at the Festival of Politics on 17/08/10.
A lively discussion exploring the controversial issue of using DNA testing to determine the nationality of asylum seekers will be hosted tomorrow (17 August 2010) by the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, and the British Council. The event is part of 2010’s Festival of Politics Programme.An expert panel including representatives from the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Human Rights Commission, Scottish Refugee Council, and Strathclyde University will debate the pros and cons of using genetic testing to verify an asylum seeker’s country of origin, as well as broader questions about science taking precedence over personal experience or history.
- Hugh O'Donnell, MSP
- Professor Alan Miller, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission
- Gary Christie, Policy & Research Manager, Scottish Refugee Council
- Dr Bruce Durie, Course Director of Genealogical Studies, University of Strathclyde
IntroductionGengage (the Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network) is looking for a public engagement officer to manage and promote the network.
Gengage is a formal network funded by the Scottish Government Health Department, which facilitates the coordination and development of public engagement activities around genetics and health care in Scotland. This unique and innovative initiative is hosted at the ESRC Genomics Forum.
In the important role of Gengage Officer, you will be responsible for managing and promoting the Network. To that end, you will liaise and work with academics, health care professionals, policy makers and members of the public throughout Scotland. Gengage draws on Scotland's strengths in science, medicine and social science, as well as its strong traditions of integrating academia and civil society, and is establishing itself as a model for similar developments elsewhere in the UK and beyond.
You will have a good first or higher degree in a relevant field including, but not confined to, science, medicine, social science, or management and business administration. You will also have experience of planning and organising meetings, conferences and workshops. Good communication skills, to deal with a wide variety of people from scientific experts to the general public, are essential, as is the ability to manage your own workload and work to deadlines.
Closing date: 17 August 2010
The post is full time but 80% appointment will be considered.
The post is available from 13th September or as soon as possible thereafter for a fixed term until 31 July 2011.
We anticipate interviews will be held on 25th August, 2010.
Salary Scale: £29,853 - £35,646
Introduction2 of the Forum's events are now SOLD OUT via the book festival's website but we still have a few complimentary tickets available.
For the fifth year running, the ESRC Genomics Forum is delighted to be sponsoring a series of events at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Featuring discussions on what it means to have virtual friends in your life and how environmental influences affect intelligence to contemplations on the future of human beings, these events promise lively discussion and a stellar cast of speakers including author Iain M Banks, TV’s Jason Bradbury, one of the world’s most influential Twitterati, and Kevin Warwick, Cybernetics Professor and the world’s first cyborg.
Although the 'Our friends electric?' and 'Harder, better, faster, stronger?' events are sold out on the book festival's website, we still have complimentary tickets available for each event. For full event details and information on how to claim your free tickets visit our .
IntroductionThe Genetic Alliance are looking for a self starter, to coordinate and deliver the Paving the Way project.
This innovative piece of work will support both patients in self management and help train health professionals about rare conditions, using online communication tools.
The Project will create a series of podcasts featuring people with rare conditions from across Scotland describing how they have become expert at self-managing their condition. The podcasts will be widely disseminated for use as a training resource for healthcare professionals, as well as for patient support groups.
The project is a new, creative approach to improving the self-management and well-being of people with rare conditions in Scotland.
This is a home based post, with a fixed term contract for 9 months full time.
To apply for this post please send a covering letter (max 2 pages) and CV to Melissa Hillier, Assistant Director email@example.com or Unit 4D, Leroy House, 436 Essex Road, London, N1 3QP
A CRB disclosure might be required for this post.
Full job description Self Management Scotland
The closing date for this post is 23rd July
Interviews will be held in Edinburgh on 30th July
IntroductionSpeaker presentations now available to download.
Following the climate change event in May, we have posted the speaker's PowerPoint presentations online.View the presentations from
IntroductionRead Dr. Mhairi Aitken's briefing note relating to community engagement and wind power.
Planning applications for wind farms have created a number of challenges within the planning process. This briefing paper sets out opportunities for using public engagement to overcome or address the challenges encountered in wind power planning processes.
Download: Wind Power Planning and Public Engagement: Challenges and Opportunities (PDF 934 KB)
You can also view this and other ISSTI briefing papers on The Institute for Studies of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI) website >>
IntroductionKen MacLeod comments on Craig Venter's synthetic cell announcement in the Guardian's 'Comment is Free'.
Humanity will thank heaven that this creator of synthetic life is playing God - Read Ken MacLeod's comments on the Guardian website >>
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley, Director of the Genomics Forum was formally inducted into the Royal Soceity of Edinburgh last week (03 May 2010).
Professor Yearley was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) earlier this March for his interdisciplinary research on the social aspects of science and technology and for his innovative work in engaging citizens with policy issues relating to the environmental and life sciences. Each new fellow is chosen by a rigorous four-stage selection process and must be recognised within their peer group as having achieved excellence in their work.
Press Release -
IntroductionPippa Goldschmidt and Ken Macleod will deliver a creative writing workshop at the annual BSA/ Wellcome Science Communications conferece in London on Tuesday 25 May.
The workshop 'Using creative writing to promote discussion about science' will examine how science is written about in fiction, poetry and traditional science narratives (such as academic papers) and explore how fictional depictions of science can help to engage new audiences. Participants will also try some creative writing of their own.
The event is being run as part of the annual British Science Association/ Wellcome Trust Science Communication Conference (external link to conference information) which takes place on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 May, at Kings Place in central London.
IntroductionThe Forum has announced details of its first Bright Ideas Programme visitors.
We are delighted to announce details of the first guests to visit the Forum as part of our new . The scheme provides an opportunity for individuals to spend a period of time - from a few days up to two months - in residence at the Forum undertaking a programme of their own work that also contributes in some way to the Forum's aims and objectives.
For further information about any proposed visits and event, please contact Dr Steve Sturdy.
Jonathan Harwood (June 2010)
An event workshop has been organised entitled “What can development policy learn from the history of the green revolution?” It will be held on the 3rd of June at the Forum's Edinburgh office.
David Shenk (August 2010)
David is a science writer, journalist and blogger. He will take part in several events including a discussion at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on his new book The Genius In All Of Us.
Tracey Rosenberg (Autumn 2010)
Tracey is a poet and author and will be working on her new volume of writing.
Ann Lingard (Autumn/Winter 2010)
Ann Lingard is a scientist and novelist and has recently been working on a book of personal stories behind the artefacts held at the Royal College of Surgeons Museum.
Sarah Keer-Keer (date tbc)
Sarah is a fine artist with a background in research science, science communication and science publishing. Sarah has worked with the Gene Jury, to help raise school pupils' awareness of genetic issues. She is currently interested in investigating the use of animation as a teaching resource to engage children with the issues around communication of genetic risk in common complex disorders.
IntroductionOver 70 academics and environment experts attended today's (5 May) event exploring society's responses to climate change.
StoryThe event, was organised by the Edinburgh Consortium for Rural Research and SNIFFER.
Using new analytical perspectives, evidence and insights from social science as well as data from surveys and from case-study analyses, the meeting focused on:
- public responses to scientists' and policy makers' ideas about climate change
- public responses to policies (such as the promotion of renewables) that are linked to threats from the changing climate
- public perceptions of today's key environmental challenges and effect on lifestyle choices
We hope to make speaker presentations available on our website over the next few days. Meantime, the event's programme is outlined below.
13.30Welcome by Professor Stuart Monro, Director Our Dynamic EarthIntroduction to the event - Professor Steven Yearley, University of Edinburgh13.45The challenge for Scotland – SEABS: the Scottish environmental attitudes and behaviours survey 08. Chris Martin, Ipsos-MORI
14.15The challenge for society– Rachel Nunn, Going Carbon Neutral Stirling
14.45Q&A session with the speakers (chair: Steven Yearley)15.15Tea and coffee15.30The challenge for knowledge - Understanding informed opposition to environmental policies and projects: The need for more than information provision. Dr Mhairi Aitken, Research Centre for Social Sciences16.00
The challenge in practice - Responses to/through forestry. Dr Chris Quine, Centre for Human and Ecological Sciences, Forest Research
16.30Q&A Session with the speakers (chair: Ruth Wolstenholme, SNIFFER)Summing up: Professor Stuart Monro17.00
IntroductionThe fourth Social Session on 10 March produced a lively discussion.
The audience of thirty or so, a good proportion of which was from the natural sciences, almost packed out the room. The presentations were clear and the discussion lively.
Last November one sentence from a hacked email by Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia from ten years earlier went around the world. "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."
These words have been and no doubt for a long time will be endlessly quoted and misquoted to suggest that climate scientists are conspiring to hide a recent decline in global temperature, and that global warming is a hoax. The saying that a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on has seldom been so brilliantly confirmed.
Read a full event report on Ken MacLeod's Blog >>
IntroductionProfessor Steve Yearley has received funding for a Genomics Forum team to partner the EUZoos-XXI project.
EUZoos-XXI is a 3-year project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission with a partnership amongst 5 zoological facilities (4 European and 1 North-American) and an environmental consultancy company.
This project aims to engage these facilities with local people to address ways of cooperatively enhancing conservation by European citizens.
For more information please visit: EU Zoos-XXI website
IntroductionThe March 2010 issue of "the gen" is available for download
Read our to find out what or who is apomixis, if synthetic biology will change how we value human life and get an update on Cesagen’s research on genomics, food, agriculture and nutrition.
Our feature article explores the pitfalls of purchasing your personal genome and find out how a Network researcher fared working in the ‘real’ world of a government department in Westminster.
IntroductionSteve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum has been named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), today (Monday 1 March 2010).
Steve has been elected for his interdisciplinary research on the social aspects of science and technology and for his innovative work in engaging citizens with policy issues relating to the environmental and life sciences. Each new fellow is chosen by a rigorous four-stage selection process and must be recognised within their peer group as having achieved excellence in their work.
Professor Yearley commented:
"I am truly thrilled by this honour. To date, not many social scientists have been made Fellows of the RSE and I am delighted to have my work recognised in this way. At the same time I am very happy for the ESRC Genomics Forum; the Forum has a unique role as a hub for cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange and I’m certain that this honour reflects very positively on the Forum and on the efforts of the whole team there."
Professor Yearley, MA (Cantab & Oxon), PhD (York), joined Edinburgh in 2005 as the Professor of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. He is primarily interested in social aspects of science and technology, and in environmental sociology. He is particularly concerned with areas where these specialisms overlap: for example in environmental controversies with a pronounced scientific element (such as with recent disputes over the safety or otherwise of GMOs and the emerging concerns around synthetic biology).
Additionally, Steve is closely involved in training PhD students and currently has graduate students working on a variety of topics including environmental modelling, conservation controversies, nuclear power and the ‘risk society’ in China, and environmental education.
The ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, is an innovative knowledge exchange organisation pioneering new ways to promote social research on the contemporary life sciences. As part of the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN), the Forum acts to integrate the diverse strands of social science research within and beyond the EGN; to develop links between social scientists and scientists working across the entire range of genomic science and technology; and to connect research in this area to policy makers, business, the media and civil society in the UK and abroad.Steve has been closely involved – initially through the Wellcome Trust – with work on social aspects of human genetics and with social science questions relating to bioethics. When he first arrived in Edinburgh he was appointed Senior Professorial Fellow of the Genomics Forum. In September 2006 Steve took over as the Director of the Forum on full-time secondment from Sociology.
IntroductionThe Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has awarded a further £2.58 million to the ESRC Genomics Forum.
StoryEstablished in August 2004, and part of the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN), the Forum has quickly grown into a
Over the next 3 years, the Genomics Forum will run a programme of national and international activities including a joint conference with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris later this year, specialist short courses, workshops, seminars, public lectures and artist and writer in residence programmes. The Forum will continue to take an active role in relevant science, book and film festivals around the UK – including the Edinburgh International Book Festival - and other public engagement activities, and it has just launched its Bright Ideas programme providing an exciting opportunity for individuals to spend a period of time - anything between a few days and two months – working in residence with us.
IntroductionKelly Swain our most recent visiting fellow spent a busy and exciting week at the Forum.
StoryKelley Swain has written a really enthusiastic post about her time at the Forum - Visit her blog post >>
IntroductionThe Genomics Forum is delighted to welcome designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King as Visiting Fellows from 2-5 February.
James and Daisy are designers with a particular interest in futures and implications of new biotechnologies (see visitor biographies for more information). They will be at Kings Buildings (the Edinburgh science campus) on Wednesday 3rd Feb, where they will give a lecture entitled 'Designers in the Lab' about their work. A seminar more oriented towards researchers in social science and design will be held at the Forum on Thursday 4th Feb.
James and Daisy are keen to meet with as many people as possible during their visit. Do please come along to their seminars, or email Emma Frow if you would like to arrange a time to meet and chat individually.
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is a designer, artist and researcher interested in the future. She uses design to explore the implications of emerging and unfamiliar technologies, science and services. She has an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art, a degree in Architecture from Cambridge University, and spent a year at Harvard University as a Herchel Smith scholar. Daisy has just returned from a residency at Symbiotica in Perth. Her recent projects include 'The Synthetic Kingdom,' and 'Growth Assembly'. Daisy is also working with Jane Calvert, Alistair Elfick and Pablo Schyfter on the EPSRC/NSF Synthetic Aesthetics project. For more information, visit Daisy's website.
James King is a speculative designer working in the fields of biotechnology and interaction design. He designs applications for emerging technologies, and through this work examines their social and aesthetic implications. James' recent projects have focused on the use of tissue-culture technologies in food production, the future of pharmacy-based healthcare, and the aesthetics of nanotechnology at the human scale. Since graduating from the RCA he has run his own design practice and worked for clients including BERG and the BBC. His project entitled 'Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow' has recently been acquired by MoMA's permanent collection. For more information, visit James' website.
IntroductionThe event on Wednesday 13 January was a great sucess.
The third Social Session attracted over fifty people - a capacity crowd for the venue, the mezzanine of the Scottish Poetry Library.After half an hour for people to get their drinks and start talking, the Library's director, Robyn Marsack, welcomed everyone and introduced the event. Ken MacLeod then introduced the members of the panel and outlined what the event was about: science as an inspiration for poetry. Ken mentioned Hugh MacDiarmid and Edwin Morgan, and contrasted Morgan's enthusiastic and unabashed drawing on space exploration and science fiction with the more guarded attitudes shown by mainstream novelists. 'What I love about poetry is its ion engine' is a line from Morgan displayed on the wall of the library. Is science more inspiring to poetry than to prose?Ron Butlin kicked off by questioning the dichotomy of science and poetry, arguing that the same human consciousness (and the unconscious) produces both, and that the early twentieth-century shock of the new was present in science, music, art and politics - a point he illustrated with a reading of his poem on Stravinsky. Brian McCabe followed this up with two or three poems - one on ants, another on eels. Tracey Rosenberg read Stories, her new poem on genetics and Jewish heritage (in both senses). Kelley Swain, the Forum's guest for the week, vividly remembered being a poet in a roomful of marine biology students dissecting dogfish, and read from her collection Darwin's Microscope and Jargon. Russell Jones talked about the science fiction poetry of Edwin Morgan (the subject of the PhD thesis Jones is working on) and read a Morgan-inspired poem, 'Star', from his own collection, The Last Refuge.There was then a ten-minute break for refills and fresh air.The Poetry Library's own Reader in Residence, Ryan Van Winkle then kicked off the second half with some comments, and a lively discussion followed - about whether the language of science may be more excluding than inspiring, about Ross's poem on discovering the malaria plasmodium, about the effect of a bang on the head on MacDiarmid's sense of rhythm, and much else.Thanks to all who took part, and to Peggy Hughes, Emma Capewell, Isabel Fletcher, Margaret Rennex and Jo Law for all their work in making it all work.
IntroductionThe HGC recently published a report on the governance of the UK's National DNA Database.
Welcoming the report, Dr Steve Sturdy, Deputy Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, commented:
"The HGC's recent report follows an award-winning Citizens' Inquiry into the forensic use of DNA and the National DNA Database and a wider consultation on this topic. The Genomics Forum had a major input into both these activities. We are naturally very pleased to see our contributions recognised in the report and its recommendations. This is an excellent example of how the social sciences, through well-planned, well-researched public engagement and policy engagement activities, can inform policymaking. The National DNA Database is a crucial area in which the public's need for both privacy, and effective policing, must be balanced. We are delighted to have been involved in this very important project."
IntroductionThe second of the Forum's Social Sessions was another interesting night.
The second Social Session took place on Wednesday evening in the Reference section of Edinburgh Central Library. An audience of almost 100 enjoyed the debate about the role forensic science has in the writing of contemporary crime fiction, and the pros and cons of dna testing.
Forum Writer in Residence, Ken MacLeod, chaired the evening's discussion, with Lin Anderson - author of the series of 'Rhona MacLeod' novels about a forensic scientist - kicking things off with some insights into how she gathers information for her novels.
Ian Rankin then gave his views on the downside of DNA testing, and Dr. Steve Sturdy explained the process of DNA testing and record holding and gave some examples of its use in criminal investigations.
There were many questions and comments from the audience and the debate could have gone on for much longer than time allowed.
IntroductionForum Writer in Residence, Ken MacLeod took part in a panel discussion on the 'designer babies' controversy.
Ken took part in a panel on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and the 'designer babies' controversy last weekend at Battle of Ideas, an annual festival of discussion organised by the Institute of Ideas.The panel, 'Frankenstein's Daughters: from science fiction to science fact?', sponsored by BPAS and the Wellcome Trust, was chaired by Science Media Centre director Fiona Fox. Leading fertility specialist and practitioner Dr Alan Thornhill opened with a presentation on the realities of PGD. Mark Henderson, science editor at The Times, argued that regulation must be based on what's possible, without 'straying into science fiction'. Ken agreed, but pointed out that science fiction has debated some current real issues decades in advance. Sandy Starr, of the Progress Eductational Trust, added that science fiction, and bold speculation generally, keeps us in mind of the 'big picture', future possibilities, and moral issues.
The audience response came from several different points of view, and a stimulating dialogue developed, in which Ken emphasised the importance of social science studies in this area, and pointed out also the interest in creative interpretation of genetic issues that he's found in the responses and contributions to the Human Genre Project.
Forum materials such as The Gen and recent briefings by Pippa Goldschmidt and Christine Knight were quickly taken up at the ESRC stall of free publications in the festival's Ideas Market.
IntroductionWriter in Residence Ken MacLeod hosted a lively discussion exploring how science fiction has portrayed scientific work.
Ken MacLeod introduced the opening speakers and the subject: the portrayal of scientists in SF and science studies. Andrew Wilson drew on his long experience with Writers' Bloc to give a lively reading of relevant snippets from Frankenstein, The Island of Dr Moreau, Gregory Benford's Timescape and Paul McAuley's The Secret of Life. Steve Yearley outlined what science studies tries to do, why in the 1990s some scientists felt that it was an enemy within academia (hence the Science Wars), and why the issues it tackles - such as defining what exactly distinguishes science from non-science - have some importance in the wider world, including law (who counts as an expert witness?) and education. Emma Frow then brought the interaction of science and science studies into focus in her own work with a group of scientists working in the new field of synthetic biology. The view from the other end of the sociologists' microscope was given by Dr Chris French, who'd not just prepared a five-minute talk as requested but in true scientific spirit run a survey among his colleagues on the question.
Stuart Kelly from the Scotland on Sunday was there and described it as a "fascinating debate": Except from his column on Sunday 18 Oct:
'The Browser' - Stuart Kelly
'C P Snow famously derided the "two cultures" mind-set that separates arts and sciences as two distinct and discreet spheres of activity, and though much has been done to dissolve this distinction, the chasm still remains. one of the most innovative attepts to bridge the divide has been the Writer in Residence scheme for the Edinburgh Genomics Forum, currently held by Ken MacLeod [and Pippa Goldschmidt - KMM]. Last Wednesday, they held a fascinating debate on the depiction of scientists in fiction, with speculative fiction writer Andrew J Wilson giving a whistle-stop tour of the various swivel-eyed, shock-haired, demented geniuses from Victor Frankenstein onwards. He was accompanied by three practicing scientists, Emma Frow, Steve Yearley and Chris French, who all spoke eloquently on the stereotypes of boffins (Dungeons and Dragons was mentioned, as well as the persistence of the "Eureka!" idea - most science is, unfortunately, pure slog). Afterwards, I was lucky enough to get a copy of this year's best contribution to the idea of Homecoming - a gorgeous pamphlet called "Alba Ad Astra", produced by the Writers' Bloc Group [and available from the Forum's other partner for the event, Transreal Fiction, who had kindly provided a bookstall - KMM], which details Scotland's forgotten (and fictitious) space programme.'
IntroductionNew public engagement kits for synthetic biology are available.
In 2007, the ESRC Genomics Forum received a small grant from the Scottish Government to undertake public engagement activities relating to synthetic biology, an emerging scientific discipline that is receiving considerable media and policy attention. We have used this grant to develop a version of Democs, a public dialogue tool.
Democs stands for ‘Deliberative Meetings Of Citizens.’ It is a card ‘game’ that allows a small group to find out about an issue, discuss it, seek common ground, and give their views. No prior knowledge of the issue is needed, and no ‘experts’ need be present to run the activity. Democs can also be used to feed into policy consultations – a version was specially developed for use in the 2003 ‘GM Nation’ debate.
Democs games are licensed under Creative Commons. You can download the cards, instructions and other components of the game below, or for a printed kit, please email Dr Christine Knight, project manager at the Genomics Forum, at firstname.lastname@example.org (tel 0131 651 4743).Instruction manual Story cards Information cards Issue cards Cluster cards Voting grid 1: Policy
Democs was devised by nef (the new economics foundation) in 2001. This Synthetic Biology Democs game was commissioned by the Genomics Forum, and funded by the Scottish Government with additional support from the Genomics Forum. The game was developed by independent consultant Dr Donald Bruce (Edinethics Ltd), in collaboration with Perry Walker (nef).
IntroductionRenowned Sci-Fi author to be published in an unusual anthology of science fiction short stories
Last year, Genomics Forum writer in residence, Ken MacLeod, was invited to take part in an intriguing experiment: an anthology of science fiction short stories, each story written in consultation with an actual scientist and based on that scientist's current research.
Ken's own contribution was inspired Dr Richard Blake's work on the project known as the Virtual Physiological Human. He states, "My immediate vague notion of taking the usual SF approach to such humane, beneficial developments (how could this advance be grossly misused, and what are the military applications?) suddenly came into focus and got an opening line and a title when I heard my son (a journalist) say: 'I hate death knocks.'"
Find out what Ken wrote and where you can read the the full story on his blog.....
IntroductionFind EGN publications more easily with our new Sort Tool
The of the EGN website now includes a sort tool. Users can now sort publications by:
Publish Date Author surname Title Title of publication - if applicable
IntroductionWritten summaries of ESRC Genomics Forum sponsored events are now available to download
Edinburgh International Book Festival 2009
The series of events sponsored by the Forum – one debate also supported by Innogen - played to packed out venues as festival audiences debated questions about evolution, personal genetic testing and identity with an international cast of writers and thinkers.
US based author David Duncan Ewing, Gwyneth Lewis former Welsh national poet, Professor John Hedley Brook, Oxford University and our own Ken MacLeod are just four names from our distinguished line up of speakers.
For written summaries of the events, please follow this .
IntroductionJohn H. Evans, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, recently visited the Genomics Forum.
During his time at the Genomics Forum he continued his investigation into synthetic biology. One application of this technology would be to create a bacteria with a minimal genome, which would have genomic cassettes attached to it, and these cassettes would produce useful products like fuel. Some social critics have claimed that this level of de-novo genetic manipulation would result in humans thinking of ourselves as gods or, conversely thinking of ourselves as just compilations of genes. He gave a talk on this topic at Cesagen in Cardiff/Lancaster, and produced an article on this topic for a popular magazine. He also gave talks on religion and reproductive genetic technology at Kings College London and on the history of debates over the neo-Darwinist synthesis at Oxford.
He reports that "its great to be a visitor to the Genomics Forum where everyone in the office knows something about what you are working on, and wants to talk with you about your ideas. For example, I got some great insights from a historian of science and a book suggestion that turned out to critical in my revision of my work."
IntroductionBen Smart read from 'The Test' at the Writers' Retreat, Charlotte Square, on 26 August
Edinburgh based writer, Ben Smart, read an extract from his short story 'The Test' as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival's '10 at 10' series. This literary ten minute reading took place on Wednesday 26 August in the Writers' Retreat in Charlotte Square. Read more about our competition, winning and shortlisted entries and judges comments .
IntroductionSir Ian Wilmut joins entrepreneur Simon Best and international research scientist Christine Mummery at Forum event.
StorySir Ian Wilmut joined entrepreneur Simon Best and international research scientist Christine Mummery - who recently led the team which cloned the first human heart from stem cells - for a public panel discussion of the latest successes, failures, and new prospects for the science and industry that famously produced the first clone from an adult animal, Dolly the sheep.
‘From Darwin to Dolly and Beyond’, is part of the Festival of Politics and is organised by the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at the University of Edinburgh, in association with the British Council and BioIndustry Association, Scotland.
Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, Director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
Professor Simon Best, Vice-Chairman of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and a Non-Executive Director of Polytherics Ltd. and Entelos Inc
Professor Christine Mummery, Professor of Developmental Biology and Head of the Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Centre
Professor Nigel Brown (Chair), Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh
Discussion topics include:
How the life sciences, particularly in Scotland, have moved on since Dolly, and the industry’s latest successes, failures, and new prospects
Setting up biotech businesses in Scotland
How industry interacts with academia to decide which subjects are worth commercial exploitation and the future for close academic-industrial links in Scotland
Is research conducted and supported differently in other countries and what difference does that make?
Professor Steve Yearley, Director of the ESRC Genomics Forum commented, “Dolly was a world first and a graphic example of the vibrancy of the life sciences in Scotland. This event provides us with an excellent opportunity to look at how science, industry and public attitudes have developed in the decade after devolution and to learn from experiences in other European nations’.
To read the full press release click .
IntroductionAngus Clarke, Professor in Clinical Genetics from the University of Cardiff is currently visiting the Genomics Forum
Angus is Professor in Clinical Genetics at the University of Cardiff and he also works as a clinician. During his time at the Forum Angus is working on two book chapters relating to the social and ethical issues around genetic testing. He has also presented preliminary work on the issue of consent in genetic screening programmes and its link with the role of the professional in the current NHS.
IntroductionThe Forum are organising an event at the Edinburgh Festival of Politics: 'From Darwin to Dolly – and Beyond!'
The Genomics Forum is sponsoring, ' an event at the Holyrood on 18 August.
Scotland is renowned as an innovative nation. Charles Darwin was introduced to evolutionary ideas here and now it is home to thriving life sciences research and industry. But what has happened since the demise of Dolly the sheep? What are the exciting developments now? And what will the future hold?
This event, chaired by Professor Nigel Brown (University of Edinburgh) will examine the past, present, and future of cutting-edge life science research in Scotland and look at how it compares to other countries. Participants include Professor Sir Ian Wilmut (University of Edinburgh) Professor Simon Best, Professor Christine Mummery (Leiden University, Netherlands).
The event will be held in Committee room 1 at Holyrood, at 3pm on Tuesday 18 August 2009.
Read the .
IntroductionThe Human Genre Project is a collection of new writing inspired by genes and genomics.
The Human Genre Project is a collection of new writing in very short forms — short stories, flash fictions, reflections, poems — inspired by genes and genomics.
Starting with just a few pieces at its launch in July 2009, the collection will grow and develop over time.
The project was conceived by Ken MacLeod, writer in residence at the Genomics Forum, who also edits the collection, and was inspired by Michael Swanwick's Periodic Table of Science Fiction.
The Human Genre Project is an initiative of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum.
IntroductionThe Forum Director will give a keynote address on the topic of "the Sociology of Conservation Controversies"
Professor Steve Yearley has been invited to give the keynote speech to a Mammal Society symposium on human-wildlife conflict resolution which will take place at London Zoo on 20-21 November.
IntroductionForum Director published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Professor Steve Yearley’s article on ‘The ethical landscape: identifying the right way to think about the ethical and societal aspects of synthetic biology research and products’ was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, on 15 May 2009. Follow the link to the Royal Society’s website to read this article online.
IntroductionWe have had over 100 entries to our short story competition.
What an amazing response we have had to our short story competition! Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry.
Our panel of judges (including the crime writer Lin Anderson) are currently reading the entries and we will announce the winners in early June.
IntroductionProfessor Wilmot James to represent the Democratic Alliance.
The Forum is delighted to share the news that Professor Wilmot James, has been elected as a Member of the South African Parliament representing the Democratic Alliance and will be sworn in on May 6 2009.
Wilmot James MP, then Executive Director of Africa Genome Education Institute, Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town and Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Board of South Africa spent a month with the Forum in summer 2007. A report and video of Professor James’ public lecture ‘’ given at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in London on 22 July 2007 are available to download.
IntroductionAudio files and presentations from the Genomics Forum conference now available.
On 12 March 2009 the Genomics Forum ran a 'Retrospective' on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, examining the nature of the public debate leading up to the Act, and how this debate influenced the policy-making process. Listen to the presentations from the event here.
IntroductionChanges to parenthood law under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 came into force on 6 April.
On 12 March 2009 the Genomics Forum ran a 'Retrospective' on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, examining the nature of the public debate leading up to the Act, and how this debate influenced the policy-making process. Listen to the presentations from the event here.
IntroductionThe Forum's Writer in Residence, Ken MacLeod discusses science fiction's relationship with science fact on the BBC website
IntroductionPress release for Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: a retrospective conference
StoryClick to access the ESRC Genomics Forum press release
Introduction'Britain in 2009' magazine asks Prof Yearley about the ramifications of synthetic biology
Science writer Martin Ince writes in the ESRC publication 'Britain in 2009':
Ideas don't come much bigger than synthetic biology. Its aim is to assemble living creatures to order from component parts, thereby going beyond the haphazard processes of natural selection to produce organisms to a precise specification...
IntroductionArticle calls for joined-up thinking on plant research and governance.
Green is the new gold. The world is waking up to the potential of plants — from food to fuel, industrial feedstocks to carbon sinks, there is growing talk of plants replacing oil as the cornerstone of the global economy.
But such fame comes at a price. Recent ‘food versus biofuel’ debates are just one example of a new ‘politics of plants’ that needs urgent attention at both national and international levels.
Writing in the first issue of the new journal Food Security, lead author Dr Emma Frow from the ESRC Genomics Forum and her co-authors suggest that it is not just a question of ‘food versus fuel’. Food and energy security are major concerns, but so are safeguarding human health, tackling climate change, protecting landscapes and global biodiversity, supporting rural communities, and providing raw materials for industry. All of these issues are connected to our use and management of plants.
Some of the world’s major economic, political, environmental and scientific institutions will have to be realigned if society is to tackle these pressing problems.
“Our position paper argues that plants could be a perfect ‘focal point’ for joined-up government thinking on food security, health, industry and climate change,” comments Dr Frow.
“Scientific advances are creating opportunities for all sorts of new and clever uses for plants — as biofuels, plastics, ‘bio-factories’ for chemical or drug production, and so on. In principle, many of these applications could be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable: a win–win situation.”
But Dr Frow sounds a note of caution: despite the growing interest in using plants for new purposes, the amount of land available for plants to grow is finite. “This is where conflicts among competing priorities begin to emerge,” she says.
The challenge is to make sure that positive strides in some areas do not have long-term negative consequences for other parts of the system. The sharp rise in cereal prices in 2007–2008 — fuelled in part by crop failures, increased biofuel production and market speculation — is an obvious example of how plants are linked to global food, energy and climate systems. The politics of plants is likely to get increasingly complicated in the coming decades.
“Lack of coordination is fuelling the emerging politics of plants, and new efforts are essential to develop more integrated and sustainable solutions,” stresses Professor David Ingram, co-author of the paper and former Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Describing some of the technological developments on the horizon, co-author Professor Wayne Powell, Director of the Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences in Aberystwyth, is optimistic:
"We will almost certainly see great improvements in our ability to derive energy and other useful materials from plants,” he says.
Professor Powell adds: “The billion-dollar research question is whether there is enough biomass to support all of our environmental, social and economic objectives. We are learning how to optimize the potential of plants, but the translation of research findings into application is still rate-limiting. Land and water availability are also key limiting factors.”
How to balance these many roles of plants will become an increasingly complicated challenge in coming decades, one that we should openly acknowledge and debate. Interdisciplinary research and joined-up government thinking will be necessary to ensure that we can balance social, environmental and economic objectives in a rapidly changing world.
Comments or responses are welcome, and should be directed to Emma Frow.
The full-text article on 'The Politics of Plants' is freely available online, in the inaugural issue of the journal Food Security.
The authors are Emma Frow (Genomics Forum), David Ingram (Genomics Forum Honorary Research Fellow, former Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh), Wayne Powell (Director of the Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University), Deryck Steer (Managing Director, Joint Nature Conservation Committee), Johannes Vogel (Keeper of Botany, Natural History Museum) and Steve Yearley (Director, Genomics Forum).
The article is an output from an interdisciplinary project on plant genomics based at the ESRC Genomics Forum in Edinburgh.
Food Security is a new journal published by Springer. It is the initiative of a distinguished international group of scientists, sociologists and economists who hold a deep concern for the challenge of global food security, together with a vision of the power of shared knowledge as a means of meeting that challenge.
IntroductionInquiry developed new approach to encouraging members of the public to have their say about forensic databases.
The Inquiry, commissioned by the HGC in collaboration with ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum and other partners, developed a new approach to encouraging members of the public to have their say about the pros and cons of forensic databases and the retention of genetic information in the UK.
Professor Steven Yearley, Director of the Genomics Forum, congratulated the HGC on this timely and well deserved award. "It is vital that public voices are listened to carefully in the complex social and ethical debates that surround our growing understanding of the human genome. The HGC offered a truly innovative way for the UK public to comment on issues around DNA 'fingerprints'".
IntroductionThe Genomics Forum's Writer in Residence, Ken MacLeod discusses the relationship between Sociology, Genomics and Science Fiction:
Scientists working in genomics and biotechnology could well blame science fiction for public suspicion of their work. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) is a founding text of science fiction, and its effect – particularly through film – on public perception of scientists tampering with ‘life itself’ can hardly have been reassuring.
On the other hand, science fiction has dramatized and popularized the promises as well as the perils of biological science. Biological themes – evolution, ecology, sex, cloning, genetic engineering and others – are deeply rooted in SF, and some works have remained resonant across decades of enormous changes in the underlying science. The technologies envisaged in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), for instance, have dated but the questions raised by the book have not. (Indeed, its status as cliché – which it shares with Nineteen-Eighty-Four as well as Frankenstein – can be argued to have pernicious consequences: see http://www.huxley.net .) In recent years, as Slonczewski and Levy (2003) point out, SF writers have ‘turned to biology as the “hard science” frontier of the future. The quest for outer space has given way to the quest for the genome. The great adversary is no longer an alien superpower, but the enemies within – cancer, AIDS, and bio-weapons – as well as the accidental results of genetic manipulation, and our own lifestyle destroying our biosphere. The engineering challenge of the future is less a matter of machines replacing living organisms than of machines imitating life’s complexity.’
Social scientists are less likely than natural scientists to star as villains or heroes in SF. Their work, however, has deeply influenced the genre. At first or second or third hand – directly, through popularizations, and as refracted through mass media - anthropology, economics, sociology, and political theory have all raised questions to which SF writers have imagined answers. Because science fiction is primarily about consequence rather than cause, a good deal of it consists of thought experiments in the social sciences. As Isaac Asimov put it, the trick is to foresee not the internal combustion engine, but the rush hour. The problem with highlighting SF relevant to social science is to narrow the list. Likewise with genomics: in much SF genetic hacking or somatic tweaking of the ills that flesh is heir to is assumed as default, part of the future background, while stories centred around GM have tended to diminish in quantity and increase in quality as the science and technology have advanced.
Mass media works (in SF and other genres) have reflected genomics in ways that range from the thoughtful (GATTACA) through the merely unrealistic workaday (CSI) and the sensational (Jurassic Park) to the loopy (Heroes). Written SF (whose core readership and reviewers are more scientifically informed than the general public) usually has to hew to stricter standards of scientific plausibility – though it should be clearly understood that plausibility is not the same as accuracy. For a brief look at this, see:http://blogs.amctv.com/scifi-scanner/2008/07/everything-the-movies-tell-you-is-wrong.php
For a wide range of academic and thematic approaches to SF, a good place to start is The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (2003). The chapter ‘Science fiction and the life sciences’ by Joan Slonczewski and Michael Levy, is a useful and detailed survey. On the general relevance and usefulness of SF to sociology teaching, see Laz (1996).
Here is a list of SF works (novels, short stories, and film/TV) of particular relevance to social science, genomics, or both.
- We can start with a story whose synthesis of critical social theory and natural science is neatly summed up in the title. Carter’s story is cast in the form of an imaginary social science article about a genetic condition that disrupts the binary perception of gender: ‘Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation’, Raphael Carter, Starlight 2, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tor Books, 1998.‘In "Congenital Agenesis" Carter looks gender straight in the face, and gender is the thing that blinks.’ (Kate Schaefer, commenting on the story’s winning of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. http://www.tiptree.org/devel/orig/1998/ )
The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus, 1973, edited by Brian Aldiss, includes a number of SF stories on social science themes:
- ‘The Snowball Effect’, Katherine MacLeanA professor shows the funding authorities what sociology is good for, by adapting the rules of a sewing circle to encourage its expansion. Unfortunately, he didn’t include any rule to limit expansion.
- ‘Pyramid’, Robert AbernathyDisplaced humans come to fill a succession of new ecological niches, as well as modes of production.
- ‘Eastward Ho!’ William TennPost-WW3 Native Americans reconstruct their traditional order from anthropology textbooks about their ancestors, and incidentally push the whites back across the Atlantic.
- ‘MS Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie’, C. M. KornbluthWhat if there really were a simple social solution to all the world’s problems – and one that’s repeatedly stumbled upon by writers, of all people? Then we’d all know about it, right? Well, not quite …
- Apeman, Spaceman, edited by Leon E. Stover and Harry Harrison, Penguin, 1972, is an anthology of anthropological SF and of interest throughout.
Two short stories parody technical writing in archaeology and anthropology respectively, to make sharp satirical points:
- ‘A Preliminary Investigation of an Early Man site in the Delaware River Valley’, Charles W. Ward and Timothy J. O’Leary
- ‘Body Ritual Among the Nacirema’, Horace M. Miner
- One story deals in a dark manner with coming to terms with local custom: ‘The Wait’, Kit Reed
- Brian Stableford’s Sexual Chemistry: Sardonic Tales of the Genetic Revolution (1991) collects the author’s short stories on the possibilities of genetic engineering. I remember them as highly entertaining and thought-provoking.
- The same author’s Inherit the Earth (1998) and its sequels provide one of SF’s most considered treatments of genetically engineered longevity, with its social and ecological consequences being monitored by a ‘Harbinist’ elite – the reference being to Garrett Hardin’s classic article ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’.
- Greg Egan has written many relevant stories and novels, some of near-future worlds changed by plausible near-term advances in biotechnology, others of much more radically posthuman and distant futures. His novel Schild’s Ladder sets itself the challenge of evoking a physical world even more counter-intuitive than that of quantum mechanics; Adam Roberts dissects its textual strategies and suggests that they fail:http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/schild.htm But the book remains a bravura example of hard SF, and includes a wry joke about anthropology and SF explorations of gender.Egan’s site http://www.gregegan.net/ is well worth a visit, and you can read many of his stories online free. ul>
- ‘The Moral Virologist’, Greg Eganhttp://eidolon.net/?story=The%20Moral%20Virologist&pagetitle=The+Moral+Virologist§ion=fictionA Christian fundamentalist engineers a virus deadlier and more selective than AIDS.
- ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’, Greg Eganhttp://www.utilitarianism.com/greg-egan/Reasons-To-Be-Cheerful.pdfA man subtly brain-damaged by a radical cancer treatment learns about the neurophysiology of happiness the hard way, from the inside.
- ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, Greg EganAn exploration of the pitfalls of basing human solidarity on genetic relatedness.
- The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 1985Probably the most respectable SF text in print, this dystopian novel is already used in sociology classes - see:Science Fiction and Introductory Sociology: The "Handmaid&uuot; in the Classroom, Cheryl Laz, Teaching Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 54-63 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1318898
- The Misconceiver, Lucy Ferris, 1997This novel, about an abortion provider in a near-future (2026) America where abortion is illegal and contraception restricted has been recommended to me by Farah Mendlesohn as a more credible (and thus alarming) dystopian vision than The Handmaid’s Tale.
- The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin, 1969Le Guin is the daughter of pioneering American anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber and much of her work explores anthropological and sociological themes. Her novel Always Coming Home (1985) imagines in great detail an anthropological study of the Kesh, a people ‘who might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California’. The Left Hand of Darkness explores the question of gender through imagining a long-isolated branch of the human species genetically engineered to be sequentially hermaphroditic. The biology and the psychological and social consequences are deeply thought through.
- Le Guin’s short story ‘”The Author of the Acacia Seeds” and other extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics’ subverts and extends the ‘imaginary science article’ form.
- Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh, 1988Politics, genetic manipulation, human cloning. I haven’t read it, and it’s fair to say that readers are divided.
- Distraction, Bruce Sterling, 1999Politics, economics, genetic engineering, and climate change in 2044 America (calling it the USA at this point would be pedantic).
- Accelerando, Charles Stross, 2005 (available online at http://www.accelerando.org/)More fired by nanotechnology and AI than genomics, but in a molecular world, who’s counting? Not the robot cat, that’s for sure. Very intense, detailed imagining of the next few decades. The sociological angle is supplied by intelligent financial instruments: corporate personhood is no longer a legal fiction, and corporeal personhood becomes distributed and problematic, especially for the flock of pigeons formerly known as Manfred.
- Darwin’s Radio, Greg BearAn adaptive human macromutation, triggered by environmental stress: controversial but well-informed biology and a plausible projection of human reactions to the birth of a new human species in our midst.
- Blood Music, Greg BearHard science, speculative fiction: computation at the cellular level (‘biochips’) becomes infectious, runs amok and eats every living thing in North America. After that, things become seriously weird. Everyone lives happily ever after.
- Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner, 1968One of the few novels whose hero is a sociologist! This dystopia of overpopulation (the title refers to the notion that the entire world population of 7 billion in 2010 could stand on the island of Zanzibar - it’s 6.7 billion now, by the way) is built on 1960s sociology, as popularised by Vance Packard – and human ethology, as popularised by Desmond Morris. There’s also a distinctly genomic twist to the plot: the anomalously peaceful population of Beninia (an imaginary African country) turn out to have a mutant pheromone. The novel is intriguing for the ways in which its world resembles and differs from the future we have now lived into.
- Beyond This Horizon, Robert A. HeinleinDespite loading many structural flaws on its short span, this early work is of interest for the ingenious mechanism it postulates for prenatal eugenic selection, and for the originality of its utopia: one based on the Social Credit theory. It’s also the original locus of the technique invented by Heinlein of replacing exposition by un-remarked-on detail: ‘The door dilated.’
- The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman, 1989Set in a warm, wet future London under a benign mutation of Chinese communism, this novel is riddled with genomic and sociological ideas: genetically modified people, viral ‘wiring’ of moral strictures (and other information) into the brain, and a cure for cancer that has halved the human lifespan. ‘This was not considered to be an advance in medicine. This was considered to be a mistake.’ The heroine’s homosexuality is considered by the authorities to be bad grammar: ‘bad deep grammar, but grammar nonetheless.’ Part of the novel was published as the novella ‘Love Sickness’ (1987).
- Hard to be a God, Arkady and Boris Strugatski, 1964 (Eng. 1973; available online at http://lib.sarbc.ru/win/STRUGACKIE/engl_god.txtSoviet SF novel in which social science is part of the problem: a team of scientists from Earth, on a world of human-like aliens, try to understand the theoretically anomalous eruption of ‘modern’ totalitarianism in a feudal society. Any allusion to then-contemporary socialist societies may have been overlooked by those functionaries whose job it was to catch such allusions.
- White Queen, Gwyneth Jones, 1993First Contact story, featuring aliens whose biological and psychological differences from humanity run deep. Winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award for exploration of gender.
- The White Plague, Frank Herbert, 1982Insane molecular biologist devises plague to wipe out women. Among other consequences, IRA warlords restore paganism. Not a Tiptree contender.
- Kim Stanley Robinson may be the SF writer most interested in realistic dramatization of how science and science policy actually work. From his Wikipedia entry: ‘The "Science in the Capital" series encompasses three novels: Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and Sixty Days and Counting (2007).This series explores the consequences of global warming, both on a global level, and as it affects the main characters: several employees of the National Science Foundation and those close to them.’
- Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974) is usually discussed under the rubric of SF about anarchism, but a large part of the story hinges on the politics of science.
- Paul J. McAuley is one of the few SF writers who have actually worked in science, and it shows. His The Secret of Life (2001) shows the effect of the discovery of a Martian microbe (with a different genetic code from that of terrestrial life) through some believable and some sensational institutional shenanigans. It also features ‘Radical Primitives’ who have used GM techniques to modify their bodies for survival in the wild.
- Another professional scientist and SF writer is the astrophysicist Gregory Benford, whose 1980 novel Timescape was praised for showing ‘the life of real scientists, cadging grants and fudging results’ (as I recall New Scientist’s review putting it).
SF of specific relevance to the sociology of science:
IntroductionAre you up to the challenge of writing a short piece of fiction with a genetics-based theme?
Storyfor more details.
IntroductionThe Network held its first event in Pittsburgh.
The first formal event engaging members of the Questioning the Tree of Life Network has now taken place. The Network is being set up with the support of a . It will explore representations of evolutionary relationships between organisms, and particularly of how microbes interact genetically with one another across evolutionary time.
The Network was awarded two sessions at the Philosophy of Science Association biennial meeting which took place in Pittsburgh in November. The first session featured talks from Network members, among them Bill Martin (Heinrich-Heine Universität, Düsseldorf), who discussed the evolutionary implications of lateral gene transfer (LGT) and endosymbiosis, Eric Bapteste (UPMC, Paris), who argued that the assumption that the unique universal tree is a fact has pervaded phylogeny. The second Network session was devoted largely to discussion of the issues raised by the speakers in the first.
The next Network meeting will take place in Halifax , Nova Scotia, at the end of July. An additional activity will now include holding a Tree of Life philosophy session at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE) meeting in Lyon in 2010. Meanwhile, the Network website is under development.Read the full report of the Pittsburgh meeting: TOL PSA report
IntroductionOur writer in residence, Pippa Goldschmidt shares her views on the world of genomics.
StoryRead Pippa's Blog
Some background information on Pippa: I’m working as a writer in residence here until May 2009. During this time I’ll work on a variety of projects in the ‘Genomics and Identity Politics’ workstream, including organising a short story competition, and writing this blog.
I’ve just received an MLitt in creative writing from the University of Glasgow and have had my short stories published in several different publications.
I used to be an astronomer, and much of my writing is inspired by science. I’m writing a novel about a female astronomer, but this is not (very) autobiographical. I’ve also worked as a policy advisor for both the UK and Scottish Governments on a wide variety of issues, including the regulation of activities in outer space, and homelessness.
IntroductionThe Forum have appointed 2 Writers in Residence to work with us on some exciting projects aimed at connecting the area of genomics to a wider audience.
Ken MacLeod is a science fiction writer of international repute. He has written eleven novels and many shorter pieces of fiction and non-fiction. His novels often explore socialist, communist and anarchist political ideas and encompass themes such as divergent human cultural evolution. Ken has a degree in Zoology from Glasgow University, has worked as a computer programmer and has written a masters thesis on biomechanics.
Pippa Goldschmidt has just received an MLitt in creative writing from Glasgow University and has had short stories published in several different publications. Pippa used to be an astronomer, and has also worked as a policy advisor for both the UK and Scottish Governments on a wide variety of issues, including the regulation of activities in outer space, and homelessness. Much of her writing is inspired by science and she is currently writing a novel about a female astronomer.
Visit our to read more on Ken and Pippa's views of the world of genomics.
Keep an eye on our website for updates on projects and events from our Writers in Residence.
IntroductionInnogen and Forum staff took part in the 4th International Meeting on Synthetic Biology.
Jane Calvert and Peter Robbins (Innogen) and Emma Frow (Genomics Forum) took part in SB4.0 from 10 - 12 October in Hong Kong. The meeting was attended by over 600 scientists and engineers, together with policy, industry and NGO representatives, and an impressive number of social scientists.
On the final day of the conference, the EGN delegation ran a session on ‘genome engineering futures.’ A lively and discussion-oriented session involving poster boards and Post-It notes, the aim was to consider some of the ‘causes & consequences’ of possible future developments in synthetic biology. In doing so, the group was able to identify and explore some of the perceived connections between different actors, policies and socioeconomic factors in the development of synthetic biology as a field.
On the basis of this pilot run, Jane, Peter and Emma plan to host a number of similar sessions with small groups of synthetic biologists — hopefully in time to present the findings at SB5.0 next year!
Session Abstract: Genome Engineering Futures and the Role of the Synthetic Biologist
Much of the debate surrounding the public, regulatory, IP, funding, security and ethical aspects of synthetic biology has been based on speculation about uncertain futures. This is likely to change as applications begin to emerge, but much still remains unknown. As has been seen in debates over GM crops and stem cells, interest groups and politics can play a central role in how these futures are played out, which can in turn shape scientific and technological pathways of innovation. Synthetic biologists have an important role to play in helping to influence outcomes, and it is crucial that their views and actions inform the emerging agenda.
The purpose of this discussion-based workshop is to develop a number of possible future scenarios for synthetic biology. We will propose several starting points, relating for example to costs of DNA synthesis, public attitudes, regulatory environments, biosafety and security, and intellectual property regimes. The focus will be on exploring interactions between factors — ethics and regulation, open source and commercial dynamics, biosecurity and militarization — and how these may affect innovation pathways. The outcomes of the workshop will be fed back to the synthetic biology community, and will ideally help to inform policy formation, as well as social science publications on synthetic biology innovation. The underlying analytical concept guiding the social science work emphasizes the ‘reflexivity’ of synthetic biologists. This highlights the active role that they play in shaping social as well as technological genome engineering futures.
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IntroductionMatt Harsh takes up the position of Post-doctoral Associate at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) at Arizona State University.
In October 2008, Matt Harsh will take up the position of Post-doctoral Associate at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) at Arizona State University. CNS is a NSF-funded center that examines the societal implications of nano-scale science and engineering and is part of the Center for Science Policy Outcomes (CSPO).
At Arizona State, he will continue his research on the politics of biotechnology and food security in Africa. He will also work with Dave Guston, Jamey Wetmore and Susan Cozzens as a member of CNS's research team exploring the theme of 'Equity, responsibility and emerging technologies'.
IntroductionThe UK network on standards and characterisation in synthetic biology has a new website.
After a lively and productive inaugural meeting in Edinburgh on 16 July 2008, the UK SynBioStandards network has now launched a website - www.synbiostandards.co.uk containing news stories, commentaries, publications, information about upcoming events, and more.
The SynBioStandards Network is an innovative and interdisciplinary network for UK academics working in synthetic biology. Pulling together researchers from the worlds of engineering, biological sciences, computer science and the social sciences, the Network aims to create a space for them to share ideas, and to develop a common language and set of tools for synthetic biology research. Activities of the Network are primarily concerned with questions relating to standards and characterisation in synthetic biology.
The SynBioStandards Network is funded for three years from June 2008. The institutions represented in this Network are Imperial College London, and the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. EGN members include Jane Calvert, Emma Frow, Graeme Laurie, Peter Robbins, Joyce Tait and Steve Yearley.
If you would like to join the Network and participate in our discussions, please contact .
IntroductionWe are pleased to advertise two exciting short term roles - Projects Officer and Press Officer.
** Closing date for applications - 15 September 2008 **
The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, based at The University of Edinburgh, is currently looking to fill two short term roles - Projects Officer and Press Officer.
For full information and details on how to apply, please visit our
Or contact: Clare de Mowbray, 0131 651 4747
IntroductionIndependent study concludes more oversight and information is needed.
The police National DNA Database should be placed under the control of a independent statutory authority. There should be a vigorous nationwide information campaign to explain why DNA samples are taken, how they are used and why they are retained.
These are two of the key recommendations in a report published from an independent Citizens' Inquiry set up by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) and the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum.
The Inquiry was conducted in Glasgow and Birmingham earlier this year with thirty people in two linked panels. They were able to call witnesses, take evidence and direct their own research over a six-week period.
For further information, please see:
IntroductionResearchers at the Genomics Forum and Innogen are part of a new interdisciplinary network in synthetic biology.
Funded by four UK Research Councils (BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC and AHRC), this network will include natural scientists, engineers and social scientists from four UK universities: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cambridge and Imperial College London.
The focus for the network’s research and activities will be on standards and characterization in synthetic biology. EGN members involved in this network include Jane Calvert, Emma Frow, Graeme Laurie, Peter Robbins, Joyce Tait and Steve Yearley.
This network is funded for 3 years from June 2008. The first event will take place on 16 July 2008.
Any enquiries about the synthetic biology network and its activities should be directed to Emma Frow.
IntroductionForum welcomes new colleagues.
We are pleased to welcome two new colleagues into the Forum family. and are both employed by the Genetic Interest Group (GIG), but are being housed in the Forum offices. Claire is setting up a Patient Engagement Network funded by Scottish Government following its 2006 Review of Genetics in Relation to Health Care in Scotland. Gillian is GiG's Scottish Development Officer.
They will shortly be joined in the office by , who will be employed by the Forum to set up a Scottish Healthcare Genetics Public Engagement Network - also funded by Scottish Government as part of its Genetics in Relation to Health Care initiative.
The arrival of Hilary, Claire and Gillian adds an exciting new dimension to the Forum's public engagement activities.
In late April, Steve Yearley was invited to attend a Parliamentary/New Statesman roundtable in Portcullis House with industry and academic representatives and with Baroness Shriti Vadera (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Competitiveness) and her staff, on the state of the biotech industry and biotech research in Britain. The discussion is featured in this week's New Statesman and can soon be followed at their website: www.policyforum.co.uk
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IntroductionResearching and interviewing 'elite' groups in the field of biomedicine
Many qualitative research training courses focus on techniques for recruiting and working with groups that are potentially vulnerable or powerless in relation to the researcher. However, for social science post-graduates interested in the life sciences, fieldwork often involves researching scientists, policymakers and other members of 'elite' groups. This raises particular practical and ethical issues, which are different from those confronted when researching less 'powerful' groups. These issues will form the focus for this event, which will provide opportunities for postgraduate students to exchange ideas and obtain practical advice from those with more experience of this type of research. One potential output from the event would the production of a list of hints and tips for future PFGS members.
Date: Friday 25th April 2008
Venue: ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum,
Contact: In order to register for the event simply email Isabel Fletcher - I.Fletcher@sms.ed.ac.uk with your institutional affiliation, short keywords of your research interests, and what year/stage you are in your postgraduate studies.
In partnership with the ESRC Genomics Forum, the Human Genetics Commission’s Citizens’ Inquiry into the forensic use of DNA and genetic information is about to get underway with the appointment of Blackburn-based research consultancy Vis-à-vis RC Ltd. to facilitate the process. The inquiry will involve up to two hundred people at group sessions in Birmingham and Glasgow with participants linked by live video.
IntroductionGenomics and Society: Setting the Agenda
CSG & EGN's Amsterdam conference17 – 18 April 2008
Theme The theme of this year’s conference will be 'Genomics and Society: Setting the Agenda'. The conference aims to explore the question to what extent ELSA genomics research feeds into or shapes the agendas of genomics research, professional practices, policy practices and public debate.
The second expert meeting of the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, on 'Modern biology and its social impact', was held held in Xishuangbanna, China, on 3 and 4 December 2007.
A full report of the meeting is now available:Modern biology and its social impact - Report on second meeting
A report of the first expert meeting between these two organisations, hosted by the Forum in March 2006, is available here - “Modern biology and its social impact”