Genomics Forum · Research
Dr Matthew Harvey
ContactDr Matthew Harvey
Animals appear in many places in genomic research, from the relatively benign process of ‘barcoding’ DNA sequences to identify particular species and animals or to inform taxonomic research, to more contentious applications such as the genetic selection or modification of animals to enhance the quality of meat, or to produce animal models of human disease states.
This work connects with longstanding debates about the role of animals in science and society, including the casting of animals only in instrumental terms or the continued development of practices that cause distress, but is also likely to raise new issues and questions. Although the overall number of animals used in scientific procedures is falling over time, the genome mapping of species of economic or scientific significance enables new and more intense ways of using animals in research and agriculture.
Moreover, animal genomics generates new ways of thinking about what animals are, how they evolve and relate to each other, and the relationships between animals and humans. Despite this, within social science animals have remained largely invisible, and the social science of genomics has viewed it as a human issue with the role and significance of animals passed over. This project begins with the belief that animals are an integral part of society and that animal genomics has social and public policy implications.
The aim of this project is to understand the context and shaping of the science of animal genomics, and its implications for the social position of animals and current and future regulatory and policy developments. Specifically, the work stream will:
- Consider the science of animal genomics, addressing the direction and technical challenges within this science. This will cover direct research on animals (e.g., in agricultural applications) and other areas where animals are used (e.g., in human health research);
- Reflect on the implications of this work for the social position and cultural construction of animals, human-animal relationships and conceptions of ‘nature’, ‘animals’ and ‘human’;
- Address policy issues for regulating/ governing animal genomics and for exploiting animal genomic research.
This work programme addresses the key theme of ‘Understandings of Nature, Humanity and Society’.
A scoping meeting (pdf) for this work programme was held in December 2004, and an expert workshop (pdf) was convened in April 2006. A special issue of the journal Genomics, Society and Policy, with academic papers from that workshop, will be published in August 2007.
For further information, please contact: email@example.com
Animal Genomes in Science, Social Science and Culture (2006) by Matthew Harvey (PDF). This is currently being revised for submission to Genomics, Society and Policy.
More Starfish Than Shrimp, More Cat Than Mouse? Locating Humans on the Tree of Life; paper presented to European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) conference, Lausanne, August 2006.
Nadja Kanellopoulou - since left the Genomics Forum
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advances in genomic and genetic sciences have increased pressures to expand research in research biobanks as medically and scientifically promising areas, but such research depends upon collecting large amounts of genetic and biological material. With gene and tissue banks emerging across the developed world - in Britain, UK Biobank and Generation Scotland are two notable examples of these trends - social researchers, legal analysts and policy-makers have begun to examine more closely the social, legal and ethical implications of these banks.
The Forum has brought together a wide number of experts, practitioners and policy-makers over several events to critically examine this key area. This work helped exploit synergies within the EGN and make connections to key academic, policy, public and research audiences in order to advance discussion about the place of gene and tissue banks. The programme pursued activities with visiting research fellows (VRFs) in order to connect EGN work with projects studying comparative aspects of biobank governance strategies, including issues of public trust and commercialisation, funding, intellectual property and access strategies for biobanks in UK and abroad.
Intellectual Property, Public Trust and Gene Banking seminar (31 May 2006): VRF Dr Dianne Nicol led a seminar on intellectual property, public trust and gene banking and discussed comparative issues in benefit sharing and the ethical, legal and social implications of gene banking. This seminar was interest to a number of EGN and other UK colleagues who currently collaborate in medical sociology research on issues of public engagement, recruitment strategies and benefit sharing models linked with Generation Scotland but also UK Biobank and comparative research on the social, ethical, economic and legal implications of other international projects.
Governing Stem Cell Research in California and the USA (13 July 2006): VRF Prof David Winickoff led a seminar on US government's restrictive human embryonic stem cell (hESC) policies and explored three ethical and political problem areas emerging out of the California program, to set the trajectory of hESC research in the US and an institutional approach to address current concerns, by proposing a network of public stem cell banks in US for transparent and shared governance. He also compared whether the UK Stem Cell Bank can serve as a useful model for California and US.
Gene Banks and Commerce workshop (18 August 2006): An expert workshop was organised by the Forum to debate questions on the management, funding and commercialisation of gene banks for research including issues of agency, representation and public trust. This event helped colleagues to compare expertise on how policy makers approach public engagement in biobanks and commercialisation, what kinds of knowledge they seek from scientists pursuing biomedical research, social scientists researching public trust in scientific research, lawyers and ethicists seeking to identify norms and values represented in these processes. The event was organised in association with the visit of VRF Prof David Winickoff and was well-attended by science managers, commercialisation managers, top scientists, lawyers and policy representatives (Generation Scotland and Scottish Executive Advisory Board for Generation Scotland, UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council and Secretariat) involved in biobank projects.
IP workshop (sessions)
Issues on gene banks management, commercialisation and public trust were included in the sessions of the two expert workshops organised under the Forum’s Genomics and Intellectual Property programme. At , colleagues discussed equitable models in managing expectations in the commercialisation of genomics and benefit sharing proposals that build on collaborative research supported by EGN/ESRC and AHRC work. Colleagues discussed the meaning and concept of ‘benefits’, as these emerge in current debates about participation in genomics research.
The Human Genome Organisation Ethics Committee provides a definition in their 2000 statement on benefit sharing: …‘a benefit is a good that contributes to the well being of an individual and/or a given community (e.g. by region, tribe, disease-group…); benefits transcend avoidance of harm (non-maleficence) in so far as they promote the welfare of an individual and/or a community... thus, a benefit is not identical with profit in the monetary or economic sense…; determining a benefit depends on needs, values, priorities and cultural expectations…’. Are health and wealth benefits mutually exclusive? To what extent are these concepts linked with how people view their contribution or participation to genomic-related research? How do people perceive benefits in relation to commercial profit, especially within different cultural settings, contexts and readings of new technologies? The discussion focussed on how the potential for commercialisation shapes governance on human research participation. Comparative examples were drawn from international discussions on benefit sharing in human genetics, the implications for consent, intellectual property management and sharing of benefits in research biobanks. A proposal for tackling community concerns and benefit sharing was presented, building on collaborative research supported by EGN/ESRC and AHRC.
During colleagues debated the increasing importance of analysing social, ethical and cultural values in IP governance as they affect the management of human tissue samples and data collections. The last session of the workshop in particular, on 'Human Tissue Research Commercialisation: Publics, Ethics and Policy in UK', offered a good opportunity to discuss recent findinds on public attitudes about commercialisation of genomics research. Colleagues discussed the significance of transparent governance in this area and the role of social scientists in informing policy. Main issues discussed were:
a) socio-ethical aspects of regulating commercial research in genomics and
b) policy assessment of public awareness of research commercialisation in UK
For further details on the programme and key issues discussed during these two events, please visit the workstream webpage, or contact Nadja Kanellopoulou, at email@example.com
Rod Taylor* - firstname.lastname@example.org
*Dr Catherine Heeney established and developed this work programme. She recently accepted a new post, and administrative matters are now being handled by Rod Taylor.
Advances in genetic sciences hold out great hope for improvements in human health, and the sequencing of the human genome in 2003 helped create an atmosphere in which we seemed to on the verge of a golden age of genetically-based care. But genetically-focussed care will only be a part of a larger context of health services. Given the economic realities of limited budgets as well as the established efficacy of many non-genetic how do we decide where to direct research and care resources to genetic services? The interplay of policy-making and the promise of scientific advances in genetic sciences is the focus of this work programme. Health budgets are limited. In Britain, for instance, the National Health Service has faced repeated budget troubles recently. But decisions regarding health care are not just economic decisions: they have social and ethical implications, too.
This work programme examined how health policy choices are made in the context of economic and medical decisions.
This programme seeks to explore the potential impact genetic sciences will have on health care as well as how policy-making will shape the provision of these services. The goal is to better understand the social and ethical implications of policy decisions on genetic services.
In March 2006, a group of experts in economics, health technology assessment, genetic medical care and health policy gathered to focus in detail on the questions raised by new genetic services and the policy procedures used to evaluate them. The first-stage of this programme culminated in a workshop held in March 2006.
Download Evaluation of Genetics Services report.
Participants noted the important implications of different approaches to genetic medical care (for instance, the difference between genomic and genetic medicine) for policy-making. A survey of British and international health policy-making established the context in which decisions are made. The workshop closed with an extended reflection on the values and inputs that drive policy-making, and the adequacy of how those procedures take into account social and ethical aspects of care. This workshop serves as the basis for further engagement with policy-makers.
The current aim of this programme is to take the reflections and ideas generated at the workshop and discuss their relevance with policy-makers in order to shed light on the social and ethical aspects of policy that may be lost when purely economic reasons drive decision-making.
Jonathan Suk - Since left the Forum
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International concern over the threat of naturally occurring infectious diseases as well as the potential malevolent use of biological knowledge, either through state-sponsored bioweapon development or through bioterrorism, has dramatically increased in recent years. The boundary between ‘bioweapon’ and ‘biodefence’ has blurred amidst a political environment in which traditional notions of national and global security have broadened so as to now also include ‘biosecurity’.
Numerous actors have pursued initiatives designed to enhance global biosecurity by mitigating the potential misuse of biological knowledge. At the international level, several actors have called for a strengthening of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which currently lacks a mechanism for confirming state adherence to the Convention. A strengthened BTWC is not expected to emerge from the upcoming 6th Review Conference, however, partially because the US has decided to pursue a unilateral rather than multilateral agenda. Perhaps owing to this reason, a variety of additional measures have been explored, each with the aim of preventing the misuse of biological knowledge. National governments, including the UK, and other relevant actors (e.g. NGOs, professional organizations, OECD, WHO) have pursued mechanisms such as professional codes of conduct, export and biosecurity controls, and even the censorship of scientific articles with findings that could be applicable to the development biological weapons.
Each of these initiatives could significantly alter the trajectory of global biomedical and genomic research, and each initiative embodies a range of technological and political expectations and commitments.
This work programme will seek to critically examine the emergence of the current political environment, in which political actors have placed an increased emphasis on ‘biosecurity’, as well as a detailed analysis of the particular policies and policy processes emerging from this environment. In particular, this work programme will seek to answer the following questions:
- How can the current governance landscape for bioweapons/biosecurity be contextualized?
- How is the threat to biosecuriy from biowarfare/bioterrorism being perceived by key policy actors? Are advances in genomics altering this perception?
- How might governance tools designed to enhance biosecurity impact the trajectory of genomics research, and vice-versa?
- In exploring these and similar questions, what can be contributed to broader debates on the relationship between science and its governance by global and national governments?
An initital scoping meeting, Genomics and Bioweapons, Emerging Governance Issues was held in Edinburgh on 2 February, 2006.
A high-level workshop was held in Edinburgh from 13-14 November, 2006. This workshop gathered together 30 participants to discuss the governance of bioweapons/biosecurity, the possible implications to biomedical Research & Development as well as science and its governance more generally. Participants' backgrounds ranged from the OECD to academia and civil society organisations, with a mixture of scientists, social scientists and policy-makers.
Deconstructing the 1918 Flu Genome (2006), by Jonathan Suk, In: ESRC Genomics Network Newsletter, Issue 4, September 2006.
Genomics, Pathogens and Global Health: Governing the Risks and Benefits (2005) by Jonathan Suk
Nadja Kanellopoulou - since left the Genomics Forum
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding and research resources for genomics advances are secured via public and private investment. Intellectual property (IP) systems have gained strategic importance in protecting research and investment by fostering competitive innovation and interest towards gene-targeted drug development. However, social, ethical, legal, economic and political concerns increase about the use of IP regimes in genomics research. International experts contest whether overly broad IP rights stifle research or push drug costs and thus hinder access to medicines and sustainable development. Critics target the absence of comprehensive policies to ensure that genomic technologies are affordable and available quickly and responsibly. Consensus increases among academic, policy and stakeholder actors about the importance of new equitable models for knowledge management and resource protection, but their implementation is slow.
These discussions are matched by wider concerns about the implementation of IP systems in genomics questioning the nature, status and interpretations of genomic knowledge and the ethical, legal, social implications of patentability of DNA. As genomics advances challenge current perceptions of identity, cultural membership, ownership and control of the human body, the need to identify strategies for pragmatic and socially informed governance becomes vital in promoting effective management of genomic knowledge towards social and economic development.
The Genomics and Intellectual Property work stream identifies emerging issues for systematic public policy in genomics, IP and health governance. The project explores how IP models are constructed, their impact on availability of genomic technologies, their influence on health governance and their relationship with international human rights norms. The project forwards interdisciplinary research, policy and business collaborations to help discuss current problems in genomics, health and IP governance. These examine the advantages and limitations of IP regimes in drug research and development, the role of international policy organisations in regulating IP and genomics, the impact of commercialisation on public trust, the implementation of social, ethical values and diverse systems of knowledge and the use of equitable and collaborative models in genomics governance, mechanisms for control of human tissue and property rights in the body.
This work stream addresses the key themes of ‘Globalisation and Governance’ and ‘Innovation and the Evolution of Industries in the Life Sciences’.
This workstream investigates the impact of intellectual property systems in genomics with the remit to facilitate academic and policy synergies in dynamic and comparative research and policy context. The project follows the Forum’s remit to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations between researchers, policy, business, clinicians, patients, stakeholders, civil society and different publics involved in genomics and health governance. Two expert workshops in 2006-2007 brought together policy-makers, researchers, lawyers, scientists, economists, social scientists, philosophers, private and public stakeholders involved in the regulation of genomics, intellectual property and health, to discuss case studies on the economic and social impact of the implementation of intellectual property systems in genomics research. For details on activities under this workstream, please see below:
Intellectual Property (IP) Workshops
- ' was held in Edinburgh, March 2006, with the general theme "Access and Benefit Sharing"
- was organised in Edinburgh, February 2007, with focus on research "Commercialisation and Control".
Biobanks, Commerce and Public Trust
Gene Banks and Commerce Workshop - This workshop was part of series of activities organised during the visit of Prof. David Winickoff, Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Society, University of California, Berkeley, in August 2006, under the auspice of the Forum's Visiting Research Fellowship (VRF) programme.
OECD Workshop on Collaborative Mechanisms
- The ESRC Genomics Forum participated in the OECD workshop on ‘Collaborative Mechanisms: Patent Pools, Clearinghouses & Collaborative Agreements’, in December 2005. The workshop brought together international experts to discuss the application of collaborative mechanisms in biotechnology and genomics. The Forum supported the event as a capacity-building activity in research engagement with international policy stakeholders in genomics.
Workshop participants and collaborating colleagues have been invited to submit working papers and research and policy briefs to help communicate issues for responsible research and policy practices in the regulation of IP, genomics and health. These publications are dedicated on the following key themes:
- The impact of exclusive proprietary systems on genomics research and development
- The ethical, legal, social implications of patenting and licensing in genomics research
- Public trust and commercialisation of genomics research
- Property, control and sharing models for equitable uses of genomics research
- The relationship of intellectual property with human rights and health governance
An edited volume is being planned under this workstream, with the preliminary title 'Patents, Genomics and Commercialisation - Ethical, Legal and Social Concerns about Intellectual Property Governance in Genomics' (Genomics, Society and Policy, April 2008)
For further information on this workstream please email Nadja Kanellopoulou at email@example.com
Kanellopoulou, N., The Impact of Intellectual Property on Genomics Governance (2006)
MAGNet is a capacity-building network for postdoctoral research staff working on medicine and genomics across the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN), and fellow researchers associated with EGN work. The network aims to create and facilitate opportunities for existing postdoctoral research staff to compare experience on current work, exchange views about future projects and establish new collaborations.
MAGNet recently organised a network session at the 1st International ESRC Genomics Network Conference, 'GENOMICS AND SOCIETY - TODAY'S ANSWERS, TOMORROW'S QUESTIONS' in London, 25-26 October 2007. The session was dedicated to problems in the interdisciplinary translation of clinical and family research in practice.
A pilot workshop was organised to launch celebrate MAGNet as the first network of this kind across EGN, with the support of the ESRC Genomics Forum in May 2006. Members sought to achieve a good balance between discussing research, networking and acquiring new skills in medicine, health and genomics research.
MAGNet is considering options for a training workshop event in 2008. We are looking for volunteers to get involved in shaping the future of our network. We invite all members and interested colleagues to send suggestions Nadja Kanellopoulou.
MAGNet EGN Event 25-26 October 2007
'Translating research on genomics and medicine' - How to make social research on family medicine accessibleFirst International ESRC Genomics Network Conference 'GENOMICS AND SOCIETY - TODAY'S ANSWERS, TOMORROW'S QUESTIONS', London, 25-26 October 2007
MAGNet EGN Poster, 25-26 October 2007
MAGNet displayed a network poster at the First International ESRC Genomics Network Conference 'GENOMICS AND SOCIETY - TODAY'S ANSWERS, TOMORROW'S QUESTIONS' in London. A copy will be available here shortly.
MAGNet Flyer, 26 March 2007
A MAGNet flyer was included in the conference pack of the 4th Cesagen International Conference in London.
MAGNet Poster, 18 September 2006
MAGNet displayed a poster on the pilot event at the British Society of Human Genetics Conference 2006.
EGN Newsletter Issue 5, March 2007
An article in the News Section of the EGN Newsletter (Genomics NETWORK), Issue 5, March 07: page 9, reports on the pilot MAGNet workshop (May 2006).
MAGNet Pilot Workshop
MAGNet Capacity-Building Workshop, 9-10 May 2006, Edinburgh Venue: ESRC Genomics Forum
Researchers from across the ESRC Genomics Network engaged on projects with a clinical or medical focus were brought together for a pilot workshop in May 2006, in Edinburgh. The aims were to create a forum for these researchers that would encourage productive dialogue about their work, facilitate the exchange of ideas and information, provide opportunities to discuss potential future projects and establish opportunities for collaboration. The workshop, funded in its planning and final phases by the ESRC Genomics Forum, was attended by 25 researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds. Research in progress was presented and discussed, representing the diversity of approaches to genomics and medicine being undertaken by the EGN. Participants took part in focused group work on 'The Challenges of Interdisciplinary Research', a topic of relevance to many social researchers working on projects relating to medical genomics. This initiative has resulted in the establishment of MAGNet that will work to support the community of researchers working in this area. We hope that this network will attract interest from researchers outside the ESRC Genomics Network and facilitate engagement with the clinical and scientific communities in human genetics.
The event agenda is available to members. An online forum and follow-up MAGNet events are being planned with the support of the ESRC Genomics Forum. For further information please contact Nadja Kanellopoulou - firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilot Workshop Participants
Adi Bharadwaj, Department of Sociology, University of EdinburghMinakshi Bhardwaj, Cesagen, Cardiff UniversityAdam Bostanci, Egenis, University of ExeterRampaul Chamba, Innogen Open UniversityChris Chatterton, Cesagen, Cardiff UniversityHannah Farrimond, Egenis, University of ExeterKatie Featherstone, Cesagen Cardiff UniversityRena Gertz, Innogen / AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law, University of EdinburghMaggie Gregory, Cesagen, Cardiff UniversityGill Haddow, Innogen, University of EdinburghNina Hallowell, Public Health Sciences, University of EdinburghShawn Harmon, Innogen, University of EdinburghCate Heeney, ETHOX Centre, University of OxfordNadja Kanellopoulou, ESRC Genomics Forum, University of Edinburgh Catherine Lyall, Research Centre for Social Sciences, Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, University of EdinburghJackie Needs, Wales Gene Park, Cardiff UniversityFiona O'Neill, Cesagen, Lancaster UniversitySarah Parry, Innogen, University of EdinburghHristina Petkova, Egenis, University of Exeter Elisa Pieri, Cesagen, Lancaster UniversityCathy Sampson, Cesagen, Cardiff UniversityPaula Saukko, Egenis, University of ExeterFlo Ticehurst, Wales Gene Park, Cardiff UniversityFloris Tomasini, Cesagen. Lancaster University Sarah Wilson, CESAGen, Lancaster University
This section will disseminate publications relevant to members work. Please send us (see Steering Committee further below) details of any publications that you would like to communicate to fellow network members. The documents will be filed in a secure page that will require member registration access. Further details will follow shortly.
There is a plan to set up a network discussion forum in the near future. For the time being we have agreed to rely on our emailing list in order to communicate with members.
Our e-mailing list is the main way of communicating with members. If you are interested in joining MAGNet and subscribing to the MAGNet emailing list, please contact Nadja Kanellopoulou - email@example.com with:
- a short bios
- a link to your project description
- a list of your research publications
Please send updates on your profiles for our online members' area to Nadja Kanellopoulou.
(ESRC Genomics Forum)
Flo Ticehurst (Cesagen)
Almut Caspary - since left the Genomics Forum
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest developments in the life sciences, genomics in particular, are taken to transform the understanding of human nature and the relationships between humans as well as between humans and the natural environment. Since the early 1990s this lead to the funding of a host of interdisciplinary research projects, commonly summarised as ELSI/ ELSA projects. These projects reflect on the impact of new developments in the life sciences; a good majority of them is asked to deliver research that informs and shapes public policy-making. Yet philosophy/ ethics, the social sciences and law are umbrella terms for multifaceted disciplines, each with their own methods, concepts, and language. They inhabit their own relatively autonomous worlds, with their own discursive conventions, their own values and attitudes, their own customs and practices. Their encounters cannot always be easily successful, especially, where the distinctions between them and their respective importance for policy making are often unclear to policy makers.
Against this background, this work stream invites academics of the disciplines to reflect on the nature of their specific contributions to policy making, hence, on the kind of advice which they might offer to policy making communities. For it is the case that alongside the general acknowledgement of the disciplines’ relevance there is no general understanding of the precise nature of the disciplines or of the intersections and relationships between them. Yet where the nature of their contributions as well as the ways in which they challenge, question and complement each other is not always appreciated, such lack of clarity may prevent the disciplines from gaining a proper hearing in the public and policy arena.
This work stream invites academics to reflect on the distinct nature of their disciplines’ contributions to genomics policy making in the context of ‘ELSI’ or ‘ELSA’ research.
- What kind of contributions and advice can policy-makers expect from philosophers, social scientists and lawyers working in the area of genomics research?
- Where do the disciplines intersect, how do they relate to each other?
- What would be an interdisciplinary framework that allows for substantive involvement of the social sciences, philosophy and law in genomics policy making?
This work programme addresses the key theme of ‘Economics, Ethics and Social Sciences in the Making of Public Policy’.
PublicationsPhilosophy, Social Sciences and Law in Public Policy Making in Genomics ESRC Genomics Forum, Edinburgh, by Stuart Blackman.
Affiliated staffSteve Yearley
This project is broad in scope, taking a holistic look at plant genomics research in its wider socioeconomic and policy context. Genomic approaches can be used for a number of purposes, for example, to help identify and classify plant species, to develop indicators of biodiversity and environmental health, to track the spread and movement of organisms (including exotic species and diseases), and to help create bespoke products or processes for the ‘bioeconomy’ (see below).
Workshops and activities to date have revolved around the following themes:
This project is an exercise in synthesis and coordination. We aim to foster dialogue between stakeholders involved in many aspects of plant genomics research, funding and policy — identifying trends, areas of consensus, possible synergy and pressing need, and also linking with issues that cut across the themes listed above (for example, climate change, food security, and ecosystem services). Ultimately we hope to use the discussions and findings to inform policy development.
The steering committee for this project comprises:
- , ESRC Genomics Forum Advisory Board
- Wayne Powell, Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University (Director)
- Deryck Steer, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (Managing Director)
- Johannes Vogel, Natural History Museum (Keeper of Botany)
- , ESRC Genomics Forum (Director)
The core activities for this workstream consist of interdisciplinary workshops, together with a number of smaller, high-level discussion meetings.
December 2009 — Workshop on Reconciling Land Use for Biodiversity Conservation and Agriculture
As part of Mike Christie's visit to the Forum as a VRF, this workshop brought together colleagues from the Edinburgh Geosciences department, the Scottish Agricultural College and the Macaulay Institute to discuss land use management in the context of the emerging bioeconomy.
June 2009 — The Politics of Plants at the OECD
On 8 June 2009, Emma Frow attended the 25th Session of the Working Party on Biotechnology at the OECD Headquarters in Paris, where copies of our Politics of Plants article were distributed and discussed.
April 2009 — EGN Cross-Centre meetings on the Politics of Plants
In April 2009, the Genomics Forum hosted two one-day meetings for researchers across the Genomics Network with an interest in plant genomics. The first workshop focused on emerging issues relating to the bio-based economy and the politics of plants, and the second workshop explored recent changes in public and policy debates concerning GM crops.
June 2008 — Workshop on Plant Breeding and Intellectual Propertya>
A workshop on the topic of plant breeding and intellectual property was held on 3 June 2008 at the Genomics Forum in Edinburgh, timed to coincide with the visit of Wayne Powell as a Forum Visiting Research Fellow. This meeting brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts to discuss the following question: Does the current European Intellectual Property Protection regime stimulate or impede investment and innovation?
April 2008 — A Green Future for Bioenergy?
In April 2008, the Genomics Forum and Innogen organised an event on bioenergy at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Professor Christine Raines and Dr Jeremy Woods spoke to a full auditorium about some of the challenges and opportunities facing bioenergy development.
Autumn 2007 - Spring 2008 — Expert meetings on 'The Politics of Plants'
In November 2007, February 2008 and April 2008, the steering committee for the Plant Genomics workstream held a series of one-day meetings with senior academics from different disciplines, to discuss and refine their emerging agenda on 'the politics of plants'. A commentary article on The Politics of Plants has been published by the steering committee in the new multidisciplinary journal Food Security, and is free to access.
March 2007 — Workshop on Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy
A workshop on the topic of bioenergy and the bioeconomy was held on 22–23 March 2007 at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge. This meeting brought together an interdisciplinary group of experts to (1) discuss the socioeconomic, scientific and policy context in which bioenergy development is taking place, and (2) map out different stakeholder perspectives and activities in light of this context, with the aim of identifying possible opportunities, synergies, conflicts and pressing needs.
A meeting report on Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy is available for download.
Also available are working papers on Genomics, Farming and the Bioeconomy [PDF] and Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy: Case Study on Bioenergy [PDF]. December 2006 — Food for Thought: A GM Debate
Steve Yearley and Emma Frow participated in 'Food for Thought: A GM Debate', a pilot project developed by the Scottish Science Centres with sponsorship from the Scottish Executive. These full-day events are designed to encourage Scottish Highers students studying biology to explore some of the social, environmental and scientific issues surrounding GM crops. Steve and Emma were 'expert scientists' for the two events at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, and will help to roll out the project at some of the other Scottish Science Centres in 2007.
November 2006 — Workshop on Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use
A one-day workshop on the topic of Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land use was held in November 2006 at the Natural History Museum in London. A working paper on Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use [PDF] is available to download.
April 2005 — Plant genomics scoping meeting
A one-day scoping meeting on the topic of Plant Genomics was held at the Genomics Forum in Edinburgh. A Plant Genomics - meeting report [PDF] is available to download.
Frow, E.K., Ingram, D., Powell, W., Steer, D., Vogel, J. & Yearley, S. (2009) The Politics of Plants. Food Security 1(1):17-23.
Frow, E.K. (2009) A Forum for 'Doing Society and Genomics'. EMBO reports 10(4):318-321.
Frow, E. & Yearley, S. (in press) 'People, Policy and Plant Genomics.' In Principles and Practices of Plant Genomics - Volume 3: Advanced Genomics, edited by C. Kole and A. Abbott (New Hampshire: Science Publishers, Inc., 2010).
Frow, E. Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy: Case Study on Bioenergy. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.
Frow, E. Genomics, Farming and the Bioeconomy. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.
Frow, E. Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use. ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, November 2006.
Frow, E. Plant Breeding and Intellectual Property. ESRC Genomics Forum Meeting Report, July 2008.
Frow, E. & Hirvonen, M. Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy. ESRC Genomics Forum Meeting Report, May 2007.
Plant Genomics Plant Genomics - scoping meeting report, April 2005.
Frow, E. 'Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy,' invited talk at the PISCES Consortium & University of Edinburgh Bioenergy Symposium, Edinburgh, 19 June 2009.
Frow, E., Powell, W. and Yearley, S. 'The Politics of Plants,' invited seminar at the Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of Aberystwyth, 12 May 2009.
Frow, E. 'The Politics of Plants: Emerging issues for plant genomics and the global bioeconomy,' CSG International Conference Genomics & Society: Setting the Agenda, Amsterdam, 17-18 April 2008.
Frow, E. 'Bioenergy and the Bioeconomy: linking science, social science and policy,' UKERC-RELU Bioenergy Meeting, Oxford, 24 April 2007.
Frow, E. 'Plant genomics for biodiversity and conservation,' Presentation to the SEERAD Science and Analysis Group, Edinburgh, 7 February 2007.
Further informationFor further information about the Plant Genomics workstream and related activities, please contact Emma Frow.
ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum
One of the oft-repeated promises of advances in genomic and genetic sciences is a better understanding of an individual’s biological profile, thereby allowing for more individualised health care. But these advances have also turned scientific attention to group classifications. Some scientists think that long-held social assumptions about race or ethnicity can now be turned into scientifically valid concepts by better analysis of genomic and genetic traits within populations. These classifications, too, are held to promise better understanding of illness and treatment within specific populations. For instance, the drug BiDil is marketed in the United States as a treatment for heart disease among African-Americans.
However, these promises exist on an historical backdrop of abuse of racial categories. Can we now use well what we have historically misused so poorly? This work programme picked up two aspects of this complex issue to provide an answer to that question. First, it analysed the social context in which race is used. Although we may talk of scientifically defined concepts of race, the concepts emerge from a muddled cultural context which shapes how racial ideas are received and perpetuated. Second, is it scientifically possible to develop a measurement of race usable in the laboratory or in practical health care?
To explore these questions, the Forum invited two noted North American academics, Dr Jenny Reardon of the University of California at Santa Cruz (author of Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in the Age of Genomics) and Prof. Joseph L. Graves Jr (author of The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America and The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium) to come as Visiting Research Fellows. The Forum organised a series of events—a seminar, a public lecture and a workshop—that allowed Dr Reardon and Prof. Graves to interact with key British social scientists and medical researchers in an exploration of the problems and promises of the new racial medicine.
Lecture Report - The Race Myth: More Sincere Fictions in the Age of Genomics
Meeting Report - Classifying Genomics: Race Expert Meeting
Policy and Practice Implications Arising from the Workshop - Policy and Practice Implications - Race Expert Meeting
Race/Ethnicity in Genetics in Science and Health, Institute for Science and Society (formerly IGBIS), University of Nottingham.
"Policy Implications of Defining Race and More by Genome Profiling" by Suzanne Haga in Genomics, Society, and Policy 2006, Vol.2/1, pp. 57-71.
Interview with Joseph L Graves Jr.
Is Race ‘Real’? A web forum organised by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).
Minorities, Race and Genomics, Human Genome Project.
BackgroundOver the past decades, the use of cellular and molecular processes to develop new technologies, products and services has resulted applications in a number of industries. While the structure of these industries is changing, expectations for economic growth remain strong, with major implications for regional innovation policy (RIP). At the same time, technological change and its influence on the evolution of the knowledge-based economy are increasingly understood as a “nonlinear” and nested system of feedback loops between actors engaged in complementary activities of research, development and commercialisation.
In this context, the competitiveness of regions seems increasingly related to the capability to generate new ideas and use them to innovate. In a globalised and competitive world capability endowments have to be continuously renewed, raising demands for the endorsement of interactive learning, networking, foresighting, and the mobilisation of complementary knowledges to respond to new challenges and opportunities.
As result, new policies are needed to promote and/or support the emergence and growth of bio-clusters in different phases of the industry life cycle. Comparing different experiences with the implementation of regional innovation policies can help to rethink existing frameworks and develop new and more effective policy models. This involves not only the identification of bottlenecks that hinder the smooth functioning of regional systems, but also the planning of policies that deal with a variety of cross-cutting issues.
Consequently, this project focuses on the advent of “molecular biology” and its implication for firms’ strategy, industrial clustering and regional development.
- to unfold the role played by key economic and non-economic drivers in the development of regional innovation systems
- explain how this role evolves in the course of the industry life cycle
- explain the importance of global links and networks, scientific and technological trajectories, and how the behaviour of various agents is affected by the characteristics of regional institutions and policy frameworks
- compare the results of policy programmes implemented in a number of regions
- propose and debate new ideas for developing new and more effective innovation policies in life sciences
Funded byBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline at the interface of engineering, biology and IT/electronics. Principal research interests in synthetic biology include (1) rational and systematic design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems, and (2) the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes.
Four UK Research Councils (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC and ESRC) have recently established seven Networks for Synthetic Biology. The SynBioStandards Network is being coordinated by Alistair Elfick (Edinburgh), Emma Frow (Edinburgh) and Jim Haseloff (Cambridge), and has several members from the EGN.
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 issues relating to standards and characterisation in synthetic biology. This is one of the main challenges faced by synthetic biology researchers.
The SynBioStandards Network is funded for three years from June 2008. The members initially represented in this Network are from Imperial College London, and the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.
Project updateVisit the SynBioStandards Network website for events, news stories, publications databases, and more. The Network also has an active wiki for members to share information and engage in technical discussions. If you would like to join the Network and/or the wiki discussions, please contact Emma Frow.
Affiliated staffAlmut Caspary
Almut Caspary & Nadja Kanellopolou - since left the Genomics Forum
Please contact: email@example.com
June 2007 - Nature launched new website on stem cell research. "With the surge in stem cell research has come a need for improved outlets of communication. Our goal is to provide a dynamic forum for discussion and information, as well as content as diverse as the stakeholders in this field?scientists, policy makers, the business and legal communities, ethicists, clinicians, and all of us who stand to benefit from stem cell therapies someday. Nature Reports Stem Cells was launched to explore the latest developments in this dynamic field."
April 2007 - Hybrids and Chimeras? Creating Human/Animal embryos in research.Difficulties surrounding the supply of human eggs have led scientists to propose using animals as the source of eggs needed. The idea is to insert human cell nuclei into denucleated animal eggs. The created animal/human or 'hybrid embryos' could be used for the production of stem cell lines. The HFEA consultation on the issue which will run until 20 July.
March 2007 - Government to ask public what they think of stem cell science.Science and Innovation Minister Malcolm Wicks announced that the UK's two major public funders of stem cell research will run a national public discussion about this cutting-edge area of science. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) will run the public dialogue programme to gain an insight into public attitudes towards stem cell research. More information on Government News Network.
Introduction Scientists around the world are keen to understand the role of both somatic and embryonic stem cells for tissue development and regeneration. They are working on techniques that allow the application of stem cells in treatment. Currently, bloodforming stem cells are used in the treatment of leukaemia to replace faulty blood cells. Among the conditions which scientists believe may eventually be treated by stem cell therapy are Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage.
As science and technology continue to advance, so do ethical, social, economic and legal concerns and implications surrounding these developments. In fact, all scientific research and development takes place in, and is shaped and conditioned by, its social and cultural context. To explore such issues in their relevance for policy and regulatory bodies is the aim of the ESRC funded Stem Cell Initiative.
Background The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of the rapidly growing area of stem cell research and cloning. During the 1980s, Sir Martin Evans and his team in Cambridge pioneered stem cell science in studies of mice; in Edinburgh in 1997, Prof. Ian Wilmut and his team showed how cloning could be used to turn back adult body cells into versatile embryonic stem cells. In 2004, the United Kingdom became one of the first nations to permit the creation of human embryos through cloning techniques for embryonic stem cell research. And as recently as 2005, the UK was able to announce its first successfully cloned human embryo.
Yet stem cell research, particularly embryonic stem cell research, is mired in controversy. Two examples: Human embryonic stem cells are taken from 4-5 day old embryos, which were created either directly for research purposes through cloning techniques, or through IVF techniques for reproduction purposes. Opponents argue that all human embryos have the potential of developing into a full human being and therefore should not be destroyed for research. In response to this, UK legislation considers the embryo before 14 days of development as having special status: its moral value is different to the moral status commonly attributed to babies, children, and adults. This allows its use in research, especially where such research has the potential of health benefits.
The second example concerns issues of applications where safety concerns arise: some researchers fear that stem cell therapy could unwittingly pass viruses and other disease causing agents to people who receive cell transplants. Stem cells, both somatic and embryonic, need feeder layers to develop and differentiate. Currently, these feeders and nutrients are mostly taken from animal sources, which can harbour diseases and contaminate the human cell population. Like any dividing cell population, stem cell population are also subject to small genetic or chromosomal changes, which could lead to cancerous cells.
These are only two of many questions brought up by stem cell science. In order to investigate these and the many other ethical, social, and regulatory implications of stem cell research, both of somatic and embryonic stem cells, in autumn 2005 the ESRC set up its Social Science Stem Cell Initiative. The Initiative has the broad aim of supporting a range of activities during a three-year period to the value of £1.7million. Research projects inquire into issues of public perception and public engagement around questions of stem cell research, investigate and compare regulatory practices globally, feed back into UK policies, look at laboratory standards and cultures as well as scientific debates around stem cells, and reflect on the potential of commercial exploitation of research. The Initiative aims to build research capacity and raise awareness within the UK social science community and beyond in regard to the emerging field of Stem Cell science.
In autumn 2006 under the second phase of the Stem Cell Initiative, the ESRC funded further work in the area. £1million were made available to support research and outreach activities within and outside the ESRC Genomics Network (EGN). In this context, the Genomics Forum has been awarded funding to develop a workshop series of capacity building, networking and outreach activities as well as to organise a short course for young stem cell scientists.
The objective of the workshop series is:
- to build on the work of the ESRC funded stem cell research community by bringing together social science researchers with scientists, policy makers, regulators as well as representatives of industry and civil society
- to advance existing work, encourage interdisciplinary insights and collaboration
- identify and explore current and emerging policy issues
- exposing the significance of ESRC stem cell research to a wider audience
The short course aims specifically at young (post-doc) natural scientists in the area of stem cells. Looking at stem cell science from the perspective of the social sciences, young scientists will get an insight into the reactions of the public, politics and individuals to the science that they do. The short course's objective is:
- to discuss the societal aspects of stem cell research in general and of their work in particular
- to provide an introduction to social scientific research on issues raised by stem cell science and technology
- to build capacity for the appreciation, reception, and use of social science amongst natural scientists
Key Activities: CBAR Workshop Series
CBAR Workshop 1 - The first CBAR workshop on the ‘Sociology and Science of Stem Cells’ was organised in May 2007. Social and natural scientists participants explored issues that arise at the interface of basic and clinical stem cell research, the way in which laboratory procedures and scientific standards are produced, their significance in influencing research decisions, and their implications for the nature of stem cell research.
CBAR Workshop 2 - The second CBAR workshop on 'Law and Ethical Regulation of Stem Cells' will take place on 23 November 2007. It is dedicated to key issues in the regulation of stem cell research and the legal protection of human embryonic stem cell (heSC) research. Current legal regimes on the use of heSC for research purposes vary widely, from permissive to restrictive, in different countries with diverse cultural backgrounds. This event will provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on the role of law in regulating heSC research, the links between law, ethics and culture, and their implications for research priorities and practice. The workshop aims to promote understanding of the ‘basic ingredients’ of stem cell law, and the interaction of legal, scientific, ethical and social expertise in regulatory policy and practice of stem cell science.
Information on future workshops will be posted here. For information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Caspary, A., Kanellopoulou, N., ‘Capacity-building awareness in stem cell research’ Stem Cell Festival, Cardiff, 22 March 2007Publications
Planned publications include a series of policy briefs and special journal editions.