1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Innogen · People

Dr. Jane Calvert



+44 (0)131 650 2843


+44 (0)131 651 4278






ESRC Innogen Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Old Surgeon's Hall, High School Yards, Edinburgh, EH1 1LZ


I work in the area of Science and Technology Studies (STS) with a focus on the life sciences, particularly synthetic biology.

I have an undergraduate degree in Human Sciences from Sussex and an MSc in the History and Philosophy of Science from the LSE. I did my doctoral work at SPRU, University of Sussex, on the idea of 'basic research'. Since my DPhil I have focused on the sociology of the life sciences (particularly genomics, systems biology and synthetic biology). From 2002-2007 I worked as a research fellow at the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (Egenis) at the University of Exeter. I started at the University of Edinburgh in July 2007.

Research interests

Current projects:

Work in progress:

  • An analysis of attempts to make biology into an engineering discipline
  • The role of social scientists in emerging technological fields
  • Interdisciplinarity and disciplinary identities in systems and synthetic biology
  • The relationships between synthetic biology, social science, and art and design
  • Governing an uncertain future in synthetic biology
  • The relation between STS and innovation studies

Policy engagement

I was a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Working Party on Synthetic Biology, the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap Coordination Group, and the Nuffield Council of Bioethics Working Party on Emerging Biotechnologies. I am currently a member of the Hastings Center Working Group on Ethical Issues in Synthetic Biology, and the BBSRC’s Bioscience and Society Panel.

Postgraduate supervision

I have enjoyed supervising postgraduate students from a range of different backgrounds including the social sciences, the biological sciences and philosophy. I have supervised topics including: the implications of epigenetics, the governance of genomics, standardization and community formation in synthetic biology, and design in synthetic biology.

I'd welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students in all areas of the sociology of the life sciences. Please see the links below for more information:


Articles and book chapters

Frow, E and Calvert, J (2013) 'Opening up the future(s) of synthetic biology' Futures 48: 32-43

Frow, E and Calvert, J (2013) '"Can simple biological systems be built from standardized interchangeable parts?" negotiating biology and engineering in a synthetic biology competition' Engineering Studies 5 (1): 42-58

Calvert, J (2012) 'Ownership and sharing in synthetic biology: a 'diverse ecology' of the open and the proprietary?' BioSocieties 7 (2): 169-187

Wiek, A, Guston, D, Frow, E and Calvert, J (2012) 'Sustainability and anticipatory governance in synthetic biology' International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development 3(2): 25-38

Calvert, J (2012) 'Systems biology, synthetic biology and data-driven research: a commentary on Krohs, Callebaut, and O’Malley and Soyer' Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (1): 81–84

Bostanci. A, Calvert, J and Joly, PB (2012) 'Regulating gene regulation: Patenting small RNAs' Intellectual Property and Emerging Technologies: The New Biology Rimmer, M and McLennan, A (eds) Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Calvert, J and Fujmura, J (2011) 'Calculating life? Duelling discourses in interdisciplinary systems biology' Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 42 (2): 155-163

Bonaccorsi, A, Calvert J, and Joly, PB (2011) 'From protecting texts to protecting objects in biotechnology and software. A tale of changes of ontological assumptions in intellectual property protection' Economy and Society, 40 (4): 611-639

Calvert, J and Joly, PB (2011) 'How did the gene become a chemical compound? Shifting ontologies of the gene and the patenting of DNA' Social Science Information, 50 (2): 157-177

Calvert, J (2010) 'Systems biology, interdisciplinarity and disciplinary identity' in Parker, J.N., Vermeulen, N & Penders, B. (eds.) Collaboration in the New Life Sciences Aldershot: Ashgate

Calvert, J (2010) 'Synthetic biology: constructing nature?' Sociological Review, 58 (s1): 95-112

Haddow, G, Bruce, A, Calvert, J, Harmon, SHE and Marsden, W (2010) 'Not "human" enough to be human but not "animal" enough to be animal - the case of the HFEA, cybrids and xenotransplantation in the UK', New Genetics and Society, 29 (1): 3-17

Calvert, J and Fujimura, J (2009) EMBO reports, 10 (S1): S46-S49

Calvert, J and Martin, P (2009) ' EMBO reports, 10 (3): 201-204

Calvert, J (2008) BioSocieties, Vol. 3, Issue 4, pp.385-400

O'Malley, M, Powell, A, Davies, J and Calvert, J (2008) BioEssays, Vol. 30 No.1 pp.57-65

Bostanci, A and Calvert, J (2008) Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Vol. 39, pp.109-119

Calvert, J (2007) Science as Culture, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp.207-223

Powel, A, O'Malley, M, Müller-Wille, S, Calvert, J and Dupré, J (2007) 'History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, Vol. 29, pp.5-32

O'Malley, MA, Calvert, J, and Dupre J (2007) American Journal of Bioethics, Vol.7 No.4 pp.67-78

Calvert, J (2006) ' Science, Technology and Human Values, Vol.31, Issue 2, pp.199-220

O'Malley, M, Bostanci, A and Calvert, J (2005) Nature Reviews Genetics, Vol.6, Issue 6, pp.502-506

Calvert, J (2004) New Genetics and Society, Vol.23, Issue3, pp.301-312

Calvert, J and Senker, J (2004) Science and Public Policy, Vol.31, Issue 5, pp.359-370

Calvert, J (2004) 'The idea of 'basic research' in language and practice' Minerva, Vol.42, Issue 3, pp.251-268

Calvert, J and Patel, P (2003) Science and Public Policy, Vol. 30, Issue 2, pp.85-96

Hinze, S, Calvert, J, Reiss, T, Senker, J, Patel, P (2003) Research Evaluation, Vol.12, Issue 2, pp.85-89

Calvert, J (2001) 'Is there a role for 'basic research' in Mode 2?' in VEST Swedish Journal for Science and Technology Studies, Vol. 13, Issues 3-4, pp.35-51

Calvert, J and Martin, B (2001) 'Science funding: Europe' in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioural Sciences, Elsevier, Jasanoff, S (Section Editor, Science and Technology Studies), Smelser, NJ and Baltes, PB (Editors in chief), Vol. 20, pp.13676-80

Edited special issues

Schyfter, P, Frow, E and Calvert, J (2013) Special issue of Engineering Studies 'Synthetic biology', March 2013

Calvert, J and Hauskeller, C (2004) Special issue of New Genetics and Society 'The meanings of genomics' (23): 3, December 2004

Chinese translation (book)

Calvert, J (2007) Goodbye blue skies? The concept of 'basic research' and its role in a changing funding environment Chinese translation, Wuhan University of Technology Publishing House: Wuhan, China

Selected invited presentations

'Biology as engineering: A tentative agenda for the social and philosophical study of synthetic biology' New Methods and Concepts for a More Robust Synthetic Biology, University of Exeter, 13th-14th December 2012'Responsible Research and Innovation and the UK's Synthetic Biology Roadmap' Ethical Issues in Synthetic Biology, Hastings Centre, New York, 27th-28th November 2012

'Identities, Infrastructures, and Institutions: The fractured organisation of synthetic biology' (with Schyfter, P) The Local Configuration of New Research Fields, Lucerne, Switzerland, 14th-16th June 2012

'Ownership and sharing in synthetic biology: a 'diverse ecology' of the open and the proprietary?' BioProperty Seminar Series, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford, 28th February 2012 'Synthetic Aesthetics: Synthetic biology, social science, art and design' Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, University of Manchester, 9th February 2012 'Negotiating biology and engineering in synthetic biology' University of Bergen, Norway, 30th January 2012

'Organizing collaborations: Synthetic biology, social science, art and design' Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, 22nd September 2011

'Collaboration as a research method? Navigating social scientific involvement in synthetic biology' International Symposium on Engaging with Genomics, Graz, Austria, 20th-21st June 2011

'Biology as engineering: from Lego to life' University of Leiden, the Netherlands, 1st February 2011

'Ownership, sharing and community-building in synthetic biology' Asian Biopoleis: Biotechnology & Biomedicine as Emergent Forms of Life & Practice, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 6th-8th January 2011

'Synthetic aesthetics' Workshop on Practices of Anticipatory Governance: Building Strong Collaborations, Arizona State University, USA, 1st November 2010

'Synthetic biology and social science' Synthetic Biology: Building a Safe Future, Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of Experts 2010, United Nations Office, Geneva, Switzerland, 25th August 2010

'Science and technology policy education in emerging technologies: the case of synthetic biology' Gordon Conference on Science & Technology Policy, Waterville Valley NH, USA, 8th-13th August 2010

'New forms of collaboration? Synthetic biology, social science, art and design' Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, USA, 12th May 2010

'Modularity, design, aesthetics and engagement in synthetic biology' UK-Japan Workshop on Synthetic Biology, Tokyo, Japan, 21st-22nd January 2010

Calvert, J and Fujmura, J (2011) ‘Calculating life: Duelling discourses in interdisciplinary systems biology’ Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences, June 2011