1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Cesagen · Research

Accomplishing mapping the human genome: Big Science & technology (PhD Thesis)

Andrew Bartlett

Start date

2004-10-01

Funded by

ESRC

Background

Modern biotechnology, it is suggested, has become transformed from a largely academic pursuit to a billion-dollar commercial and scientific industry (Collier 2001: 9). It is fast becoming, to use de Solla Price's phrase, a 'big science' (Price 1963), requiring large and costly facilities, regulatory and policy changes, huge teams of scientists and technicians with a proliferation of specialised roles, and with the results, in the end, 'published as just one primary paper, with a hundred co-authors each seeking some degree of personal recognition" for their contribution to knowledge' (Ziman 1984: 138). A significant recent example suggesting that biotechnology is indeed now a ‘big science’ enterprise can be found in the publication in 2001 of the completed maps of the human genome. The two papers (in Science 2001, and Nature 2001) contained the names of some 520 scientists split relatively evenly between the public and private enterprises. The public consortium of sixteen groups, however, was spread across 48 laboratories worldwide indicating the complexity and magnitude of the enterprise. The fact that 'discoveries in biotechnology are no longer made by individuals, but as big science, in a collective of scientists, machines and technicians' (Keating, Limoges and Cambrosio 1999: 138), raises a number of interesting questions of organisation and management. It also points to the importance of the new communication technologies in maintaining the integrity of the research enterprise and the community of science (Glasner 1996). This project will investigate the views of those involved in producing the first drafts of the map of the human genome. The issues likely to be covered in the survey and interviews include: science communication, organisation and management of multi-national programmes, the relations between science, engineering and technology, labour process concerns (such as de-skilling through using automated sequencers), globalisation, commercial versus public interests, the impact of regulatory regimes, and scientists’ current views on the role and status of the map of the human genome.

Further information

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