Human practices and the challenges of upstream engagement in synthetic biology?



Publication Details

Mercer, D. W. (2012). Human practices and the challenges of upstream engagement in synthetic biology?. In A. Bamme, G. Getzinger & T. Berger (Eds.), Yearbook 2011 of the Institute for Adavanced Studies on Science Technology and Society (pp. 67-84). Austria, Munich, Vienna: Profil Verlag GmbH Munchen Wein.


Most promoters of synthetic biology highlight the fact that the emerging field not only offers the possibility of of generating new synthetic organisms, but that it will also involve the devlopment of new ways of doing biology through the adoption of engineering principles. Many synthetic biologists have been pro-active in generating discussions about what forms of regulation are appropriqate to these new forms of knowledge and knowledge creation. The apparent novelty of sysnethetic biology has also stimulated a number of social scientists to suggest that new ways of doing biology also offer possibilities of upstream enagagement between scientists and social scientists. Possibily the most promininent recent attempt to put these ideas into practice can be found in the work of philosopher anthropologist Paul Rabinow in the SynBERC project in California. In the following discussion I will comment on Rabinow's project and other proposals for collaboration, and highlight some of the challenges faced by social scientists in developing Meaningful collaborations with synthetic biologists.

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