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Accepted Paper:

From gut feelings to data assets: capitalisation and the production of value in academic science  
Luciano Ferrari (University of Amsterdam) Roberta Raffaetà (Ca' Foscari Venice University) Lorenzo Beltrame (University of Trento)

Paper short abstract:

We focus on how the gut matters in the capitalisation of microbiomic knowledge, emphasizing the need for a socio-anthropological lens in academic capitalism. This paper explores how diverse forms of value (economic, health, and social) are produced and negotiated in academic microbiome research.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates the intricate processes underlying the transformation of intellectual work into assets within the field of microbiome research. Through ethnographic exploration of a personalised nutrition startup in Italy and the UK, we explore the dynamics shaping the intersection of knowledge production with scientific, economic, and health value. Two key findings emerge: firstly, the conversion of knowledge into assets, where laboratories and academic institutions function as semi-entrepreneurs in a neoliberal market, actively extracting economic value from epistemic resources. Secondly, our analysis reveals a unique hybrid model, distinct from traditional commodity and rent-based structures, wherein the commodification of scientific knowledge converges with rentiership dynamics of accumulation. This hybridity challenges conventional narratives, highlighting cooperative business models between institutions, breaking away from competitive frameworks. Importantly, the study unveils a nuanced relationship between data, research, and economic drivers, with data guiding scientific inquiry rather than market forces. Critically, this third model, while economically sustainable, imposes costs on individuals, carrying significant sociopolitical implications for future health policies. Our study reveals how, in the context of academic capitalism, academic science can sometimes inadvertently contribute to specific economic forms, emphasizing the need for a socio-anthropological lens to unpack the ever-increasing complexity of value production in microbiome research.

Panel P233
Oh my gut: anthropological pathways to the cultural, affective, medical and multispecies entanglements of the gut
  Session 1