Accepted paper:

Finding a place in science: the role of institutional configurations in the formation of scientific identity


Niki Vermeulen (University of Edinburgh)
Andrea Núñez Casal (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the importance of place and institutional culture for the identity of scientists, through the merger of two long-standing research institutes into a new bespoke building. Based on the analysis of the moving process, we show the entanglement of place and identity in science.

Paper long abstract:

Following the unique merger of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the Cancer UK London Research Institute (LRI) into one single collaborative institute, we will analyse how the physical moving process went hand-in-hand with transformations in identity. Researchers moved from an institute with a history and its own research culture, into a new and empty space full of expectations as well as insecurities. What did this mean for their sense of belonging and how did they (re-)shape their identity along the way? As place and identity are co-produced, researchers come to identify with their workplace, and they mutually shape one another creating 'environmental biographies'. Based on document analysis, interviews and ethnographic observations, we will explore how the past was disposed in bins, how working lives were packed in boxes, and how memorabilia were used to bridge between the old and the new place. We found that especially zebra fish and big machines such as electron microscopes are difficult to move, but that researchers are gradually carving out a space for themselves in new relations to others, while also shaping the identity of the new Francis Crick institute.

panel F03
Scientists - agents under construction