Genomic research, genome testing in healthcare, and the creation of biobanks are rich sites for STS investigation. This panel exposes the frameworks in which genomic practices are situated and how these frameworks configure identities, social relations, and manage uncertainties and expectations.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Genome testing and the social ontology of childhood adoption
Our study explores the views and experiences of genome testing amongst two groups of professionals who play a central role in the adoption process - social workers and medical paediatricians.
Molecular technologies are broadly techniques for the evaluation and clarification of life. Such techniques not only refigure biological and social relatedness but, in some cases, they are shape decisions through which lives are brought together into new social assemblages. Childhood adoption services in the UK are a particular site in which molecular technologies form part of medical assessment that intervene in the processes of creating families. In recent years, chromosome microarray (CGH) testing has become the first-line investigation for identifying a likely cause of a child's developmental, learning and behavioural difficulties. Our study explores the views and experiences of genome testing found amongst two groups of professionals who play a central role in the adoption process - social workers and medical paediatricians. Accessing these groups reveals a surprisingly complex landscape of actors who seek to control or mitigate the effects of genome testing. Amongst the entanglements of the legal apparatus, prospective adopters, social workers, and medical advisors, genome testing becomes much less a technology with stable properties than a technique for the production of ontological certainties and uncertainties. The clinical uncertainties of genomic findings are merely a component within a bureaucratic assemblage oriented to the rapid clarification of the child. Indeed, the whole 'adoption process' is one that creates a social ontology of the child that is highly resistant to uncertainties that might delay the child's prospects for adoption. Our findings have implications for considering the wider political, legal and multidisciplinary obstacles of recognising new forms of genomic uncertainty.
The value(s) of archiving transgenic mice: exploring the bioeconomies of animal research through a case study of mouse biobanks
We explore bioeconomies of animal research via a case study of UK mouse biobanks. We argue that, in archiving mouse strains, they materialize assumptions, commitments and social relations central to animal research into frozen tissue laden with promissory ontological, ethical, and economic values.
In this paper we illustrate the importance of understanding contemporary animal research through its bioeconomies (see also Davies, 2012, 2013) with a case study of mouse strain biobanks in the UK, based on interview data with scientists and animal technologists. As post-genomics biomedical research continues to drive the production of very large numbers of new transgenic mice models, some stakeholders (regulators, funders and scientists) are increasingly encouraging researchers to archive mouse models for reasons of animal health, but also efficiency and maximising use. Previous work in STS has suggested that biobanks containing 'resources' ranging from embryonic stem cells to DNA or seeds enable the disentanglement, accumulation and circulation of value in bioeconomies (Parry, 2004; Waldby and Mitchell, 2006; Peres, 2016). We suggest that mouse biobanks, too, can serve to disentangle, decorporealise and pacify (Callon, 2002, Parry, 2004, Caliskan and Callon 2011) mouse strains into frozen cells with attached promissory ontological, ethical and economic values. Our analysis shows how biobanks therefore materialize, in some sense, assumptions, commitments and social relations fundamental to animal research. It suggests how empirical research into the bioeconomies of animal research can contribute valuable insights into understanding this topic.
Rethinking the public versus private debate on UCB biobanking: the participation of donors in the processes of shaping UCB biobanking configurations in Greece
We draw on empirical data to study the debate between the public and the private/family UCB banking models in Greece, by focusing on the participation or obscurity of donors/citizens at different instances, in order to capture the ways they relate to the biotechnologically reformulated tissues-UCBs.
The paper explores the organizational and institutional processes in the shaping of umbilical cord blood (UCB) banking configurations in Greece in tandem with the social, political and economic relations constituted by the emergence of public and private/family banks. UCB banks have been developed, mainly, by following two models: the public one, in which stored UCB units are made available for allogeneic use, and the private one, which entails commercial banks that store UCB units for autologous or family use. Work, mainly by STS scholars, has examined the biotechnological transformation of UCB in relation to the complex institutional arrangements that emerged and to its positioning in the tissue economies. We examine the debate between the public and the private banking models in Greece, a country that for many years had the highest number of private UCB banks per head of population. We draw on empirical investigation based on a range of primary sources (interviews with stakeholders, documentary sources, grey literature, newspaper articles and selected TV shows/documentaries, blogs and online communities of parents/expectant parents). We rethink this debate, not in its bioethical and policy dimensions, but by focusing on the participation or obscurity of donors/citizens at different instances. We seek to illustrate the conflicting discourses on UCB biobanking, by capturing the ways citizens relate to the biotechnologically reformulated tissues when choosing to donate or store the UCB, by participating in discussions regarding the biobanking practices, asking for accountability at some times, and being left aside at others.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.