Accepted Paper:

Variants of epistemic capitalism? Valuation and epistemic agency in biotech and the academic life sciences  


Maximilian Fochler (University of Vienna)

Paper long abstract:

STS and innovation studies both have a key interest in the relation between academic and commercial logics in processes of knowledge production, but they talk past each other in astonishing ways.

STS is concerned with how economic logics change processes and institutions of knowledge production. It can build on a rich tradition of studying knowledge cultures to talk about these issues. However, STS remains focused on academia, ignoring that there are many more epistemic cultures in contemporary societies than academic disciplines. Hence, many contributions may be criticized for employing an overly schematic model of commercial research in talking about changes in academia.

IS on the other hand has studied the commercial dimension of current research in much detail, be it patenting dynamics in basic research or knowledge-intensive entrepreneurship. From an STS perspective however, its work often stops where an STS interest would start. It hardly ever addresses the co-production of epistemic approaches and social, institutional and cultural contexts.

My paper proposes to explore synergies by taking STS concepts beyond their comfort zone. Drawing on interviews in biotech companies and the academic life sciences in Austria, I will compare cultures of knowledge production in both domains. More concretely, I will focus on the respective valuation practices and the attribution of epistemic agency. As I will show, some of the routine allegations raised in STS against commercial research, such as that one order of worth supersedes all others and particularly epistemic considerations, empirically might describe academic contexts better than (small) corporate ones.

Panel K2
Cross-breeding science and technology studies and innovation studies