Accepted Paper:

Protecting and perfecting nature: performing responsibility in academic-industry collaboration  


Sally Atkinson (University of Exeter)
Susan Molyneux-Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

We analyse a multidisciplinary synthetic biology project and examine how notions of environment and sustainability are mobilised by participants to perform responsible innovation in the context of this industry-academic collaboration.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents analysis from a qualitative study of the field of synthetic biology. Our study addresses how concepts of responsibility are imagined and used by scientists working in an industry - academic collaboration that is using synthetic biology approaches to address industrial biotechnology challenges. The collaboration is motivated by stated desires to shift from a petro-based to bio-based economy yet wider questions on the relations of innovation and economy are not raised.

Our analysis traces how ideas about futures, sustainability and environments are mobilised by technical researchers to make sense of their collaborative work; to provide a rationale for that work; and, to distribute the responsibilities involved in the development of bio-based industrial production strategies. We pay particular attention to the role of such ideas in the practice and negotiation of the academic-industry boundary. This site questions the relevance of academic, experimental laboratory-based knowledge to the structures and drivers of large-scale industrial bio-production and the political imperative of a bio-based economy.

The study contributes to an examination of how ideas of responsible research and innovation are experienced and framed in everyday scientific practice.

Panel C15
When responsible innovation meets economic crisis: considering the possibilities of 'responsible stagnation'