CESAGen Home Page

Emerging Politics of New Genetic Technologies - Flagship Project

What is CESAGen?
CESAGen Home > CESAGen Flagship Projects > Emerging Politics Home >

Emerging Politics of New Genetic Technologies Home


This 3 year project is about public engagement with new genetic technologies. This work has been predominantly UK focused, with attention also paid to EU regulatory developments and European actors. Focusing on human applications, the project has been mapping the social dynamics of emerging public responses to this high profile science project, identifying core areas of interest and concern as expressed by different publics in relation to a broad variety of issues and themes. ‘Publics’ are here defined as civil society in its broadest sense and the project is thus mapping engagement (actions, discourse frames) amongst:

  • Producers of genomic techniques, including scientists, clinicians and administrators in both private and public sectors
  • Regulators of genomic techniques, at local, regional, national, European and global levels, but with a primary focus on UK and European institutions
  • Engagement with genomic techniques by social movements and other organisations through which public support or opposition to genomic techniques might be organised, such as campaign groups, patient groups and other grass root organisations.

A 'timeline' and ethnographic overview is being produced, and a database of prime movers has been collated. Methodologically, the project has been taking 'snapshots' at various ethnographic sites. The research is now moving into the coding and analysis stage. Using Nvivo qualitative coding software, interview and other research data is being coded to identify core discursive frames and actor network interaction patterns.


Areas of emergence amongst latent networks /predisposed actors are becoming more apparent as the discursive stakes become more formalised, and the networks more embedded. The project will be reporting major findings in the form of reports and datasets by Spring 2006. Core frames, issues and actors will be identified, along with mobilisation /network patterns and trends.
Points of contention and crossover (convergence) between the two main ethnographic case studies, such as support for or opposition to patenting, the 'right' to 'individual choice', are being identified. The network relationships with and between all of these actor groups and regulatory and policy fora are also being mapped in terms of identifying general trends and specifics.

Some general patterns/ findings

A core finding is that to construct any actor group as simply "pro" or "anti" biotechnology fails to map the sophistication, range, context- dependency, and cultural and political situated-ness, of actor responses (see Irwin and Wynne 1996, Wynne 1995, Bauer and Gaskell 2003). Multiple issues are associated with the broad field of genomics and CT (Converging Technologies). Risks and benefits are perceived as tied together; producing complexity, ambiguity, fragmentation. Correspondingly, whilst in some arenas clear 'battle lines' are drawn, such as a social justice critique of biological reductionism, or pro- life opposition to embryo research, overall, mobilisation over human genomics is fragmented, shifting and complex, with multiple cultural and political issues implicit or explicit within a "single issue". Further, boundaries between identities are blurred as actors cross between spheres of engagement, for example between the regulatory and civil society sphere. This has implications for policy and modes of public engagement.


| Emerging Politics Home | The Research Team | Aims and Objectives |Research Approaches/Methods|
|Broader Significance | Project Outputs| Resources | Contact |
< CESAGen Home > < CESAGen Flagship Projects >

Page updated: 9 November, 2005