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BIOSNews Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Biology’s public

In this issue Editorial 1 ‘Has “biodemocracy” saved the life of democracy?’ by Kathrin Braun 2 ‘The challenge of synthetic biology’ by Valentina Amorese 3 ‘Making sense of the critical public’ by Leo Kim 4 Book review: Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences by Valentina Amorese 5 Research updates 6 Postcards from BIOS visitors 7 Publications and conference presentations 10 Upcoming events


If there is one thing that social science has learned from biology it is that it captures. Biology, it seems, captures public imaginations, engenders novel self-understandings and generates (inter)national controversies in equal measure. These different public facets of biology have been explored in many different ways in the past term here at BIOS. In this issue of BIOS News, Kathrin Braun looks back at some of the key findings from her research on the historical development of national bioethics commissions, ethics councils and consensus conferences on ‘ethical issues’. Kathrin asks whether or not this new ‘biodemocracy’ might be a saviour of public participation. You will also find Valentina Amorese’s review of the recently held panel discussion on the challenges of synthetic biology hosted by BIOS in October. This distinguished panel examined the complexity of the ‘translational’ processes that characterise biological science today where hopes of progress are accompanied by restrictions of fear. Leo Kim summarises some of the discussions held at a two-day workshop in the Royal Society which BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

sought to develop new indices to capture a nation’s ‘scientific culture’ rather than just its public understanding of science or its science and technology performance. Finally, there is also a review of Sahra Gibbon and Carlos Novas’s new edited collection on Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences which critically examines some of the new forms of collectivism that contemporary biotechnology is generating. In our regular pages, Amy Hinterberger, Leo Kim and Rachel Bell provide us with research updates while Uffe Lind (who was a BIOS visitor in the Michaelmas term), Giovanni Frazzetto (who visited Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) and Ayo Wahlberg (who visited the Peking University Health Science Centre) send us their postcards.

Hearty congratulations are in order for Dr Chris Hamilton who very successfully defended his dissertation back in October as well as for Dr Giovanni Frazzetto who was declared joint winner of the 2007 John Kendrew Young Scientist Award in November! Fantastic achievements. And while they have been at BIOS for some months now, a warm welcome to ‘new’ BIOS PhD students Amy Hinterberger, Leo Kim, Rachel Bell as well as to Research Officers Dr Joelle Abi-Rached and Dr Jim Ottaway. The new editorial team of BIOS News would like to wish you all happy reading and a happy new year! Valentina Amorese, Giovanni Frazzetto, Leo Kim, Jim Ottaway and Ayo Wahlberg

Has ‘biodemocracy’ saved the life of democracy? by Kathrin Braun

When I came to the LSE, I had just concluded two main research projects a few months before and was looking forward to the start (pending approval) of new ones. For the past three or four years, I have been preoccupied with the great and good things that the politics of biotechnology and biomedicine have brought about in the past one or two decades, such as public participation, public dialogue, participatory governance, and public bioethics. Assessments of these phenomena range from euphoric celebration to grim suspicion. Whereas some see them as achievements of citizens’ fearless fights, as appropriate means of (re)creating public trust, representing public concerns and promoting the common good; others suspect they are merely new strategic instruments of deliberately manipulating public opinion and manufacturing consent in favour of decisions that have in fact long been predetermined by science and governments. While I basically started from the question of which of these assessments was actually ‘true’, things, as they often do, turned out to be more complicated and multi-layered. Our group – Svea Herrmann, Sabine Koenninger and Alfred Moore (researchers in the project ‘Ethical Governance?’), Susanne Schultz (researcher in the Paganini project) and myself – looked into the historical development of national bioethics commissions, ethics councils, consensus conferences on ‘ethical issues’ such as participatory exercises in the governance of genetic testing. Today, I would say that yes, both public bioethics and participation exercises in scientific governance are direct or indirect responses to social movements’ and citizens’ resistance to certain technological developments, and yes, the ‘old’ elitist expert model of scientific governance, which has been the object of much criticism from STS scholars, has to some extent given way to new models of scientific governance. So, is what we are seeing, a kind (re)vitalization of democracy? Have biotechnology and biomedicine given new life to participatory democracy and the public sphere? It has been said that ‘bioethics saved the life of ethics’ – for the purpose of a feature as informal as this it might be admissible to frame an analoguos question: ‘Has biodemocracy saved the life of democracy?’

It has been said that ‘bioethics saved the life of ethics’ – for the purpose of a feature as informal as this it might be admissible to frame an analoguos question: ‘Has biodemocracy saved the life of democracy?’ 

Of course, it would require much more empirical research into different policy fields, countries, political arenas, participatory arrangements, forms of governance and so on – research such as that which Kevin Burchell and Kerry Holden at BIOS are doing – to present an answer to this (slightly exaggerated) question. However, what I would conclude from our studies is that such research could benefit considerably from making use of the Foucauldian concepts of biopolitics,

problematization and government, and from governmentality studies what Nikolas Rose has termed ‘governing at a distance’. It could be very fruitful to bring closer together: social studies of science and technology; discussions about participatory governance, civil society and the public sphere; and governmentality studies and the analytics of government. What one can see through the combined use of these lenses is that public bioethics is a framework that allows for certain questions to be asked (eg ‘Which values have to be balanced here?’) but not others (‘Who profits?’), and that gives voice to certain concerns but demands that concerns are voiced in a moderate, non-antagonist, tolerant manner that precludes radical opposition and social critique. Formal participatory arrangements such as citizen conferences, youth conferences, public consultations, can be seen as generating rather than representing certain forms of ‘the public’ or ‘the citizen’; through their different formats they inevitably invite, select, promote and encourage certain subject positions at the expense of others. In particular, we found, in line with other researchers studying scientific governance such as Alain Irwin, Javier Lezaun, Linda Soneryd, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Larry Reynolds, a bias towards ‘pure’ or rather ‘purified’ publics – publics constituted of ‘blank minds’, individuals (not groups or representatives of groups) who have not yet been ‘spoiled’ by a professional or political interest in the subject matter, who are naive but amenable to education. Another construction of publics that is sometimes celebrated and featured is that of the ‘authentic BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Has ‘biodemocracy’ saved the life of democracy? continued… public’, constituted by individuals who are personally affected by certain disorders, disabilities or diseases and thus are supposed to bring in a special, embodied and thus ‘authentic’ form of experience which is considered as a source of a specific type of authority. What one can see when combining these lenses is that good things like participation and ethics are as much about discipline, education, generation

of knowledge, and conduct of conduct as about democracy and public concerns. Although I am switching to new research areas next year, namely governance of egg cell procurement in Europe and, hopefully, the politics of reparations for victims of eugenic sterilizations, I will most certainly continue trying to come to terms with the ambivalences of biodemocracy. The challenge of synthetic biology

The challenge of synthetic biology by Valentina Amorese On 24 October, the BIOS Centre, in conjunction with the Royal Society of Arts and Penguin Books, organized a public debate entitled ‘Beyond the Genome: the Challenges of Synthetic Biology’ with the participation of a distinguished panel of academics, chaired by Professor George Gaskell. Representing the natural sciences Craig Venter, founder, president and chairman of the Craig Venter Institute, and Chris Mason, head of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing Unit at UCL were present; while to represent the human and social sciences Peter Lipton, head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University, and Sarah Franklin, associate Director of BIOS and Professor in Sociology at the LSE were invited. Clearly for a topic and a panel like this, my expectations were quite high, and even if there probably wasn’t enough time to investigate and analyse the consequences of synthetic biology in depth during the discussion that followed speaker presentations, I think that this event represents a significant step not only to bridge the gap that divides the natural and

In Memoriam, Professor Peter Lipton Members of the BIOS Centre were very sorry to learn of the untimely death of our very esteemed colleague Professor Peter Lipton, Head of HPS at Cambridge on Sunday 25 November 2007. Professor Lipton played an important role in the recent BIOS event considering the future implications of Synthetic Biology, and will be very sadly missed for the rigour and quality he brought to the philosophy of science, and the humanity he brought to discussions of the ethical and political challenges of innovation in the life sciences.

BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

human sciences, but also to engage the public into a useful, productive and meaningful discussion. Craig Venter, one of the most controversial figures of molecular biology, in London to promote his autobiographical book A life decoded, gave the public a brief, but clear presentation of what brought him to synthetic biology, and in particular synthetic genomics. Everything started in 1995 when he, with his colleagues, sequenced both the first and second living being respectively belonging to the bacteria Haemophilus influentiae, and the bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium. These events led them to think about how they could define the genome of ‘a minimal operative system’. After a few attempts, however, they realised that the knock-out approach they were using wouldn’t have been able to help them answer this question. They realized that their only possibility to answer very simple questions that molecular biologists could not answer yet, like for example whether the order of genes is important, or if it matters that something comes first or second on the chromosome, was to create chromosomes in the laboratory, and consequently use their extreme variety to study the very essence and rules behind the human genome. This rationale brought Venter and his colleagues to synthetic biology and the creation of the first synthetic chromosome in October 2007, which can probably be considered a paradigm shift in the history of genomics. However, as Professor Mason underlined during his speech, science in general, and genomics studies in particular, cannot go

directly from the laboratories to the public. Instead it needs to be re-shaped, rearranged, or to quote him, ‘translated’. Only through this process of input-output, where great science comes in and good products come out, can everyone benefit from pivotal discoveries in disciplines like mathematics, physics, biology and genomics. The complexity that characterizes this process of ‘translation’ in large part lies in the necessity to combine together different areas of science in a multi-disciplinary effort that is able to bridge the gap between great, but very theoretical premises like the one behind mathematical formulas, and very practical advantages for mankind, like computers. Even once this process of translation has been completed, there are still no certainties that the public, the government or even scientists will agree to put these new products into practice. In fact, as Sarah Franklin noted, great hopes like the one to solve world hunger or to help people who experience difficulties in having children or even to cure degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, have recently paradoxically been accompanied by restrictions and limits for science. The moral obligation that both the public and scientists feel to develop and progress through science in order to respond to these hopes constantly has to cope with an obligation to restrict and control science in itself because of its uncontrollable risks in time and space. So, how to solve this paradox? What changes are necessary to finally liberate our society from this vicious circle that we are now living?

The challenge of synthetic biology continued…

To start it is probably necessary, as Sarah Franklin very clearly showed, to stop thinking about science and society as two separate and distant realms, because the society we live in, and the people we are presently, couldn’t even exist without ‘our’ science. In fact it seems more likely to

imagine science as the very heart of society instead of its eternal opposite. With this idea of science ‘in’ society in mind we can then proceed further and perhaps even reconsider the often used and abused uncontrollable and unlimited space and time scales that have been largely proposed by governments, institutions, the public, NGOs and even scientists to either accuse or justify science. Maybe, as Franklin suggested, by starting from the present and the local, a new phase of dialogue between science and society can finally begin, and perhaps events like this conference would be less unique and more common.

instead be perceived as an advantage because each of them can contribute differently to construct the future of our society. However in order to do that it is important that they are placed into the condition to talk to each other, to share thoughts, hopes and worries, and to work together to built our future society, as happened during this seminar, which for me really did what it says on the tin because it took me beyond genomics, as a science separate from society, and guided me to synthetic biology, which looks set to become the heart of our future society.

Different people from different disciplines see the same thing in different ways, as Peter Lipton pointed out, but this doesn’t have to be considered a problem, it should

Making sense of the critical public Royal Society meeting (5-6 November 2007) for the International Indicators of Science and the Public Workshop by Leo Kim “Indicators of science and technology have come far since the 1960s and are well institutionalised. Many countries around the globe now routinely collate statistics on R&D expenditure, science publications, citations and impact, high-tech employment, and penetration of high-tech goods. In parallel there have been several, but often isolated attempts to define complementary ‘public understanding of science’ (PUS) indicators such as literacy, public sentiment, interest, and attitudes. Little progress has been achieved to explicitly combine classical S&T performance indicators and PUS indicators in a composite ‘index of scientific culture.’”

importance of public understanding and its engagement with scientific policy. And the government, as well as the STS community, wants to embed itself as a ‘communicator of science.’ The reality, however, reveals that the seemingly defunct ‘deficit model’ remains widely intact in policy motives. In the delivery of his key note speech, Mr Ian Pearson, Minister of the newly formed Science and Innovation Department in UK, expressed hope that the ‘strategy of inclusion’ would contribute to build a society excited about science, while ‘dispelling misconceptions.’

This was the assessment of Dr. Rajesh Shukla, one of the presenters addressing STS scholars from 22 different countries who had convened at the Royal Society Workshop in London (5-6 November 2007) to overcome current limits. During the two-day workshop, through heated debates, they explored how one might establish longitudinal data integration, to discover new indices, to compare scattered data sources over the world, and to build an international cooperative network based on mutual confidence.

‘Although we are enjoying for two days the liberating illusion of no immediate relevance, we have a clear agenda,’ said Dr Martin Bauer, the organiser of the workshop. Perhaps it was also an answer to the critical questions from the floor; ‘How to rescue the meaning of the survey that would not dwell on deficit model but move forward a contextual model?’, ‘How to create an environment not just excited about science, but science excited about society?’, and ‘What is the (ultimate) aim of all this dialogue?’

Recently it has not been uncommon to observe efforts that recognise the

In fact, contemporary surveys suggest that the representation of a public BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Making sense of the critical public continued… that initially resists new technology no longer holds true. Instead, it seems initial hype is likely to be followed by controversy and sobering public attitudes. Therefore, more sophisticated ways to utilise survey as a communicating apparatus and to understand the critical ‘climate’ of the public, beyond ‘attitude’, is becoming an essential part for the integrity of scientific practice.

research passions. This would be an ongoing agenda for the next decades. Actual work to assemble the scattered data sources, go beyond rather conventional analyses, and build the skeleton of the comprehensive index, while not ignoring the heterogeneous voices from different socio-cultural contexts, will require a particular intellectual leadership as much as tenacious collaboration.

‘The world will come to benchmark our achievements’, an invigorating comment from one of the scholars, nevertheless, triggered my sense of cautiousness, as well as my own

Many productive and enthusiastic discussions circulated during the two days at the Royal Society. And the attendants pledged to continue the meeting next year.

Book Review: Biosociallities, Genetics and the Social Sciences: Making Biological Identities – Gibbon, S and Novas, C by Valentina Amorese The idea of biosociality first appeared in Rabinow’s essay ‘Artificiality and enlightenment: from sociobiology to biosociality’ (1992; 1996). At that time he was at the very beginning of his research on the Human genome mapping initiative, and used the idea of ‘biosociality’ to describe both the new and pivotal role of genomics in the dynamics related to group formation, and the reversal of the relationship between nature and culture so that ‘nature will be made known and remade through technique and will finally become artificial, just as culture becomes natural’ (Rabinow, 1996). Over 10 years since its first appearance, now, as Carlos Novas and Sahra Gibbon note in the introduction to the book Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences: Making Biological Identities, is probably the right time to start reflecting on this concept. In my opinion, their book goes even further. In fact this book does not simply analyse the empirical and theoretical validity of biosociality, by elucidating strengths and weaknesses of this notion, but also proposes innovative theoretical constructions, like bioavailability, or biocrossing (Bharadwaj), that could be used to capture the spread of new biotechnologies around the world. BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

The book is guided by four theoretically different, but practically very much intersected, themes. These include: the analysis of how new technologies are shaping identities and contributing to create new forms of identification; reflections on the new forms of collectivism that new biotechnology studies are generating; investigations of the influence that the development of life sciences has on knowledge formation; and observations of how DNA studies have affected the relationship between economy and the very meaning of life. These four themes are powerfully combined together by the different authors of the book so that, for example, it can happen either that discussions on the development of new social groups caused by new genomic studies are combined with investigations of the influences that these studies have in the economic field and the production of knowledge, as Novas’ study on Pompe disease shows; or that discourses on the making of identities are merged with the analysis of groups formation, like Margaret Lock’s contribution with her reflections on the case of Alzheimer’s disease demonstrates. What makes the book even more valuable is the critical spirit that goes through all the essays. It not only helps the reader to individuate some of the potential limits of the concept of biosociality, but also proposes new notions or theoretical

approaches in order to overcome those limitations. On one hand in fact there are some limits that are peculiar to this notion, in fact as Gibbon and Lock interestingly show, many of the groups that new genetics have reshaped existed even before, and understanding their new biosocial present depends very much on understanding their particular past. On the other hand these limits represent the inspiration for researchers like Bharadwaj to develop new notions that could eventually be used to overcome them, like the ones of bioavailability of biocrossing that we find in Bharadwaj’s essay on embryonic stem cells in India. The book concludes with a conceptual reflection shared by Rabinow with the reader, which I found particularly helpful to disclose the very meaning of the whole collection of chapters. Here Rabinow points out that the term biosociality was never intended to be a ‘master concept’. In fact his notion was born in part as a reaction to the spread of the idea of socio-biology that characterised the 1990s in general, but mostly as a heuristic notion that could help social researchers to explain, investigate, conceptualize and describe the new forms of sociality that have been flourishing since the development of new biotechnological studies. Read through this lens, the book represents a great tribute to biosociality, and a significant step towards an understanding of our contemporary society.

Research updates

Leo Kim PhD Candidate A comparative study on the stem cell discourse in the public sphere of biotechnology: UK and Korea Hi! My name is Leo Kim. I’m so glad to join BIOS this year, which was the only research institute in the world I wanted to come to. Back in Korean university I studied sociology, European history, philosophy, cultural studies, etc. I also had an interest in politics, social movements, education, law, literature, art, and many other things. I initially majored in historical sociology doing my master’s degree. I deliberately changed my subject to STS during the period of my military duty, when the notorious Hwang scandal broke in the country. After realising that the Korean society would not be prepared to accept a late-modern leadership for the sustainable socio-scientific development within a decade, much less paying serious attention to its epistemological transformation, I sought to study abroad and subsequently to make however little a contribution to humanity. BIOS was my favourite because it is in Britain where I had once lived, and in the Sociology Department of LSE that I adore. Most importantly, I was impressed by the fact that the organisation represented an intellectual rigour to create a multi-disciplinary academic environment with the full spirit of new challenge. I guess it fits into my natural trait as well.

I delivered a presentation at the 2007 BSA conference, ‘A comparative study on the biotechnological discourse: UK and Korea’ as a pilot work. I wrote my Master’s thesis on Hwang scandal: ‘A study on Korea’s response to the prospect of stem cell technology’.

Amy Hinterberger PhD Candidate The Genomics of Difference: Race, Ethnicity and Populations in Biomedicine I have recently joined BIOS at the beginning of my second year of doctoral studies. Having completed a Masters at LSE’s Gender Institute in 2005, I began my PhD in the Sociology Department in 2006. As I narrowed down my research topic things took a decidedly ‘bios’ turn and I feel very fortunate to be welcomed into another research centre with such a vibrant and lively research culture.

the Canadian government launched a concerted funding effort to establish Genome Canada. Dedicated to developing and implementing a national strategy in genomics and proteomics research ‘for the benefit of all Canadians’, Genome Canada invests and manages large-scale genomics research projects in human health. Through a multi-sited ethnography of Canada, and specifically of Genome Canada, my research explores how ideas of human genomic difference are being mobilized and accorded properties in ways that both obfuscate and rework ‘race’. Drawing on interviews with Canadian scientists and bioethicists, along with participant observation at conferences and workshops, I have found that while genomic science may be dispelling the myth of discrete ‘races’, researchers need to consider how genomics intersects with national histories, cultural belonging and identity.

My research addresses how a shift to Currently, I have completed an initial the molecular scale of genomics permits ‘pilot study’ mapping out genomics particular notions of race, ethnicity research in Canada and I will be and populations to persist. Categories embarking on more fieldwork in of race, ethnicity and populations are January 2008. Later in the New Year, I becoming increasingly significant factors will be presenting my research at the within discussions of human genomic ScienceFutures conference in Zurich, diversity and biomedicine. Specifically, I along with a conference at MIT entitled am exploring these issues in relation to What’s the Use of Race? I hope that Canada, a nation which prides itself on these conferences will provide me its multicultural diversity and has recently with valuable feedback regarding my sought to place itself as an international research in order to prepare me for my player in genomics research. In 2000, upgrade at the end of my second year.

My research focuses on the formulation of stem cell discourse in two countries: UK and Korea. I will address what systemic causes have affected the different formulations of discourse on stem cell technology in the two countries. Added to various theoretical backgrounds, I will adopt and develop a new methodological approach of social network analysis to STS. This will be utilised to analyse the interaction of semantic effects in the public spheres over time. Through the study, I will try to elucidate what the outcome implies for sustainable scientific practice.

BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Research updates continued… Rachel Bell PhD Candidate ‘The social and political implications of emerging brain sciences, with particular reference to criminal justice’ If research was a planned hike, nicely mapped out in advance, it would be so much easier to write a profile like this, or simply to answer Mum when she asks, ‘Remind me again what you are actually doing for your PhD’. As it is, I am trying to come to terms with research as an exploratory journey,

and to develop a preliminary answer that will at least satisfy curious aunts and uncles this Christmas. Retrospective accounts are easier, and, at least, give an indication of the tastes and aspirations that bring lost wanderers their current location. Mine is as follows: I developed an interest in politics as an undergrad at Durham University, after which I worked in parliament as a research assistant for Steve Webb MP – then the Lib Dem health spokesman. This established my enduring interest in the social impact of innovations in medical science

(although the Lib Dems failed to secure my party-political loyalty). After this I worked at the think-tank BioCentre and studied LSE’s Biomedicine, Bioscience and Society MSc. During this time my primary interest shifted from the struggle to establish a public forum in which competing styles of thought can communicate, to the social impact of neuro-scientific styles of thought. BIOS, and the Brain, Self and Society project in particular, provide a fabulous context for this… wherever it is, exactly, that it takes me.

Postcards from BIOS visitors A unique academic milieu Uffe Lind, Department of Health Services Research, Institute of Public Health, University of Copenhagen So this is goodbye then, or in a more hopeful and less depressive style: See you later. So what have I gained from being at BIOS for four months, or as my mother-in-law recently asked me trying to figure out what exactly I was doing in London: ‘Couldn’t you have done what you do here back home as well?’ In many ways a good question, but the answer, nonetheless, is ‘probably not’. For would my reading, thinking and writing not have been different and less inspired being conducted in the village of Copenhagen? I am certain. As many of you probably know quite well, work and life as a PhD student can be hard, lonesome and occasionally even slightly dull. A change of environment may therefore be very profitable. In other words, being at BIOS and in London was just what I needed. Do not be fooled, although Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons are quiet, BIOS is an extremely inspiring and fun place to be. Never have I been around such a large number of bright and driven people for a longer period of time. For me BIOS is a unique academic milieu characterised by the prosperous meeting of many professional, academic and intellectual cultures. The place has a very cosmopolitan feel to it; it seems as if the world is brought together in one small place. It may be complex, and that’s good. I hope you keep it that BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

way. I will miss discussing projects, theory and the latest within stem cell research and pharmacogenomics, and I will also miss (a little more?) going to the pub, having cake on Wednesdays and just getting to know you people. Put shortly, it’s been great, and I shall return to Denmark with renewed energy, hope and enthusiasm. Thank you all for that.

Lakes, lovely paths and benches for thinking Giovanni Frazzetto, ‘Society in Science’ Branco Weiss Fellow, BIOS Centre, London School of Economics

It took me a couple of weeks to settle in. I had forty new fellow-fellows from all sorts of disciplines and many countries to meet and get to know. We get a little help in this. Every week day we have a meal together, lunch four days a week and candle-light dinner on Thursday night. And it’s not considered polite to talk about the weather. One of the unexpected benefits of my residence here was the substantial dose of inspiration I received from talking about my project to scholars with sometimes very unfamiliar backgrounds. Every day a changing cast of interlocutors. As the linden tree

Dear colleagues from BIOS,My time at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin is coming to an end. Time flew. And this means I’ll be back in London soon. WiKo is a hard place to capture in imagination unless you have set your foot in it and spent a reasonable amount of time there, but I’ll try my best. When I first arrived, I was amazed by the beauty of the area and by the enormous old buildings that house the fellows, the library, the meetings and the meals. I was put up in a cozy, quiet Dach-Wohnung, wrapped in green. Outside the window of my bedroom are tall, strong pine trees. A large glass wall in the living room reveals an impressive linden tree, deep green on my first day. This is the heart of Grunewald. Forest, lakes, lovely paths for cycling and walking, and benches to think. The library is just downstairs from where I live. Very conveniently located if you feel the urge to have a look at your morning paper in your bathrobe.

Postcards from BIOS staff continued… turned gold and lost its summer vigour, my project came into sharper focus. I read widely and thought a bit more. My relationships with the fellow-fellows deepened. I think I am going to profit from my time here as I will take with me a number of new ideas to work on for the next time to come. It’s now December. Temperatures are sinking, but Berlin is a sea of light. The tree has shed all its leaves. This gives me an excellent view of the neighbourhood. I think I also gained vision on my research proceedings. I highly recommend the Wissenschaftskolleg for an inspiring, quiet thinking and writing retreat. I have also missed you and I can’t wait to be back. Yours, Gio

Beijing buzz Ayo Wahlberg, BIONET Research Fellow, BIOS Centre, London School of Economics The bus ride from our flat on Zizhuyuan Lu to my office at Xueyuan Lu in Beijing’s western Haidian district takes anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour in jam-packed buses. It’s best to avoid the rush hour! Spending three months in China as BIONET Research Fellow in the fall of 2007 has been fantastic, but it has not necessarily all been easy. My host at the Peking University Health Science Centre (PUHSC) Medical Ethics unit, Prof. Cong Yali made us feel very welcome from the day my family and I arrived in early September. We quickly settled in and did our best to adjust to the new sounds, sights, smells and tastes (delicious!) of Beijing.

BIONET’s second workshop on stem cell research was held in Shanghai in early October and generated a lot of very interesting data and discussion. 

And as looking in any European or American newspaper these days will tell you, there is a certain vibrancy, energy and craziness all around. Construction cranes litter the skyline as seen from the Temple of Heaven, rush hour often means gridlock on Beijing’s five (soon to be six) ring roads and there are many days when according to the Chinese Ministry of Environment’s daily Air Quality Index measurements it is best to stay indoors.

And for my empirical material I visited six different reproductive medicine centres and sperm banks in Beijing and Changsha. I also gave a few invited lectures to medical ethics students at both the PUHSC and the Peking Union Medical College while in there. All in all, a fantastic and fruitful stay, but it must be said as well, always nice to be home!

At the same time, it is hard but to be in awe of the amazing historical sites that are scattered in and around Beijing from the Forbidden City to the Great Wall, and the hutongs around Jiugulou are a must. My three month visit as research fellow at the PUHSC was in part to work with and support BIONET partners in China on upcoming BIONET events and in part to begin research on my current project on the concept of ‘quality’. And on both fronts, the stay turned out to be very fruitful. BIONET’s second workshop on stem cell research was held in Shanghai in early October and generated a lot of very interesting data and discussion. The workshop report is now available BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties online at BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties Vol 2, issue 4 BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties ‘Here we have papers engaging themes as diverse as psychotropic drugs, stem cell technologies, and the BioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocietiesBioSocieties

Out now!

genetics of breast cancer, and yet collectively they suggest that some well-developed, even classic analytic touchstones from the social sciences – gender, culture, the family, national identity – are still productive for our efforts as scholars to make sense of the new and even the cutting edge.’

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CALL FOR PAPERS: Standardising objects, stabilising categories 3rd Annual Symposium of the Postgraduate Life Sciences and Society Network, 12—15 June 2008, Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki, Finland. Developments in biomedicine and biotechnology have done much to challenge and recast the ways in which life itself is understood and intervened upon. Aspects of human life that have been regarded as foundational have recently opened up for modification, enhancement and improvement. These developments have caused heated political, ethical, legal and sociological debates. They have also reconfigured epistemological categories central to western understanding of life, such as the social and the biological, the nature/culture dichotomy and the human/animal boundaries. However, parallel to these processes of unfolding there are multiple efforts to establish, stabilise, and standardise novel objects, methods, categories, rationalities and practices connected to the field of life sciences. There is, for example, the fixing of a scientific object within a laboratory; creation of a diagnostic category or a health care practice; standardization of an industrial product or a procedure; and establishment of a legal category or a section. Moreover, there seems to be, in social, political and ethical analysis, a corresponding introduction and establishment of analytic concepts like biovalue, bioethics, biosociality, somatic subjectivity, or genetic citizenship. The 3rd annual symposium of the Postgraduate Life Sciences and Society Network (PLSSN) will focus on how both empirical objects and conceptual categories are being established and solidified. Firstly, how and why do certain objects, methods, etc. become instituted in the practices of life sciences? Secondly, how does this institutionalisation take place with regard to the analytical concepts used to describe the current developments in life sciences? What is left out when an object, category or concept is being formalised and fixed? What kinds of political, ethical, legal and sociological controversies and debates are involved? As in the Network’s previous symposiums, we inquire into what are the theoretical and methodological implications and challenges we face when studying life sciences. How can interdisciplinary and comparative approaches help in analysing the present characteristics of life sciences? For further information on the network please visit Abstracts (max. 300 words) should be sent by email no later than 31 January 2008 to Mikko Jauho ( or Mianna Meskus (

BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Publications, lectures and conference presentations by BIOS staff, associates and students Publications Hamilton, C. (2007) “Knowledge, Ownership and Life: The Relationship between ‘Biopiracy’ and Intellectual Property Rights”, PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, London, London School of Economics and Political Science. Lentzos, F (forthcoming) ‘Countering misuse of life sciences through regulatory multiplicity’ in special issue of Science and Public Policy on ‘Containing Biological Weapons, Constraining Biological Research?’ Lentzos, F and Rose, N (forthcoming) ‘Governing insecurity: biothreats, contingency planning, protection and resilience in Europe’ in Purtschert, P, Meyer, K and Winter, Y (Eds.) Gouvernementalität und Sicherheit. Zeitdiagnostische Beiträge im Anschluss an Foucault. Lentzos, F and Woodward, A (2007) ‘National data collection processes for CBM submissions’, End of project report.

Rose, N (2007) ‘Susceptibility as a Form of Life: Genetic Testing, Susceptibility and the Remit of Medicine’ in Burri, RV and Dumit, J (eds.) Biomedicine as Culture, London: Routledge, pp. 141-150. Rose, N (2007) ‘Governing the Will in a Neurochemical Age’, in Massen, S and Sutter, B (eds.) On Willing Selves. Neoliberal Politics and the Challenge of Neursoscience, Houndmills, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 81-99. Rose, N (2007) ‘Foucault, Laing et le pouvoir psychiatrique [Foucault, Laing and psychiatric power]’ in Sociologie et sociétés, 18(2): 113-131. Rose, N (2007) ‘Terapia y poder: techné y ethos’ in Archipiélago, 76: 101-124. Schultz, S, K Braun & E Griessler (2007) “The Governance of Genetic Testing: Non-Antagonistic Setting, ‘Authentic Publics’ and Moments of Unease”, Final Report of Work Package 3, Participatory Governance and Institutional Innovation [PAGANINI], LSG/paganini/output.htm Wahlberg, A (2007) “A quackery with a difference – new medical pluralism and the problem of ‘dangerous practitioners’ in the United Kingdom”, Social Science & Medicine, 65(11): 2307-16 Wahlberg, A (2008) ‘Above and beyond superstition – western herbal medicine and the decriminalising of placebo’ in History of the Human Sciences, 21(1): 77-101

Presentations Ajana, B, (2007) ‘Ethics and Cultural Minorities’, presented at


Ethical Aspects of Inclusion in the Information Society, European Commission, 29 October 2007 Burchell, Kevin (2007) ‘UK governmental public dialogue on science and technology as a boundary technology’, presented at PEALS/ IHRR seminar series, University of Durham and Science and Technology Education Group seminar series, KCL, November 2007. Kim, L (2007) ‘A comparative study on the biotechnological discourse: UK and Korea’, paper presented at The British Sociological Association Annual Conference, University of East London, 12-14 April 2007. Lentzos, F (2007) ‘Transparency and secrecy in biodefense and dual-use life sciences research – present practices and future alternatives’ Invited presentation at conference on Transparency in current and emerging approaches to biosecurity, George Mason University, Virginia, USA, 19 October 2007. Lentzos, F (2007) ‘Implementation as process’ Invited presentation at Pugwash meeting, Geneva, Switzerland, 7–9 December 2007. Lentzos, F (2007) Invited speaker at the Chairman’s roundtable session on ‘Practical contributions of civil society to national implementation and regional cooperation’ at BWC Meeting of States Parties, UN, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 December 2007. Lentzos, F (2007) Invited speaker at roundtable event on “science and bioterrorism”, Science Museum’s Smith Centre, London, 11 December 2007. Lentzos, F (2007) ‘Challenges States Parties face in collecting CBM information and possible ways of overcoming these’ Invited presentation BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

Publications, lectures and presentations continued…

at Geneva Forum seminar on confidence building measures at BWC Meeting of States Parties, UN, Geneva, Switzerland, 12 December 2007.

Denmark and China’, presented at Third Hospital, Peking University, China, 27 September 2007

Rose, N (2007) ‘What is life – revitalised’, invited lecture at Paganini Closing Conference, Vienna, Austria, 11 June 2007.

Wahlberg, A (2007) ‘Medical and bio- ethics in historical context: Europe and America’, invited lecture at Peking University Health Science Centre, Beijing, China, 20 November 2007

Rose, N (2007) ‘Narratives of the Self in a Neurobiological Age’, First Annual Public Lecture of Centre for Research on Socio-economic and Cultural Change, Manchester, October 2007.

Zhang, J (2007) ‘What Drives China’s Burgeoning Life Science Industry’, presented at the 13th Meeting of Chinese Life Scientists Society in UK, Cambridge, 15 September 2007

Rose, N (2007) ‘Governing Insecurity’, Keynote address to Security, Risk and Technologies of the Political Conference, Keele, November 2007.

Zhang, J (2007) ‘Societal and Cultural Factors in Stem Cell Research: China’, presented at BIONET Shanghai Workshop, 11 October 11 2007

Schmid, S (2007) ‘Determination of death in embryos. What does embryo death – in the context of brain death and cell death – tell us about death, and life?’, presented at Death and Dying in Sociology, Graduate Sociology conference, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 16-18 November 2007

Zhang, J (2007) ‘Chinese Cultural Motivation for Biomedical Advancement’, presented at Biocultures Graduate Student Conference, Chicago, USA, 16 November 2007

Schmid, S (2007), with M. Naef ‘Beyond male-female: A new statistical approach to gender’, presented at the Economics Lunch Seminar, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, University of Zurich, Switzerland, 16 November 2007

Frazzetto, G (2007) John Kendrew Young Scientist Award for inspirational and creative achievements, incorporating societal needs in his research as a Society in Science Branco Weiss fellow at the BIOS Centre (London School of Economics and Political Sciences); establishing the European Neuroscience and Society Network (ENSN); and creating a science-art exhibition in neuroscience.

Vrecko, Scott (2007) ‘Biology under control: magic bullets as agents of medical and social transformation’, presented at BIOS Research Seminar series, London, 6 December 2007


Wahlberg, A (2007) ‘The relationship between modern medicine and traditional medicine in Western countries’, invited lecture at Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China, 29 September 2007 Wahlberg, A (2007) ‘Reproductive medicine and quality of life in BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008


Upcoming BIOS events During term time, the BIOS research seminar series and BIOS reading group sessions are held regularly on Thursdays and Wednesdays respectively. The Thursday seminar series feature invited speakers to discuss their research on various social and ethical aspects of the life sciences and biomedicine, while the reading group facilitates discussion around a series of topics that are of interest to persons associated with BIOS or who have an interest in the life sciences throughout LSE and beyond.

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BIOS News Issue 8 • Winter 2008

BIOS News Issue 8. Lent 2008  

BIOS News Issue 8. Lent 2008

BIOS News Issue 8. Lent 2008  

BIOS News Issue 8. Lent 2008