BuildingByrne House, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter
My interest and expertise lies in the application of insights and perspectives from Science and Technology Studies (STS) and medical sociology to the study of novel and emerging biotechnologies. More specifically, I am concerned with understanding the ways in which these technologies are shaped by a variety of social factors – including institutional and regulatory cultures as well as the perspectives of developers and prospective users – throughout the course of their development and deployment into practice; and how, in turn, new biomedical technologies shape and reconfigure our understandings of disease, health, and the ‘sorts’ of people we are or can be.
I have an MA (by Research and Thesis) and PhD from the interdisciplinary Institute for Science and Society (ISS) at the University of Nottingham. My doctoral thesis took the use of human Growth Hormone (hGH) to treat childhood short stature and as an anti-ageing treatment as a case study to examine the bioethical concept of human enhancement. Deploying a socio-technical history of the drug I examined the ways in which some applications of hGH (for example to treat growth-hormone deficient short statured children) have become legitimised and accepted into routine practice while others are contested as non-medical ‘enhancements’. Between my MA and PhD I worked as a research associate on a Pharmacy Practice Trust-commissioned report on emerging biotechnologies, including stem cell technology, cancer vaccines and genetic tests, co-authored with Professor Paul Martin (Nottingham). I also have a first degree in Biology from the University of St Andrews which allows me to bring a level of understanding to the technical aspects of these new biotechnologies.
In 2011 I joined Egenis from the Science and Technology Studies Unit (SATSU) at York, where I had been a work-package leader on the EC Framework Programme 7 Regenerative medicine in Europe (REMEDiE) project. My primary role at Egenis is to work with Dr Susan Kelly and the Healthcare Technologies and Society (HTS) group to support ongoing work and develop new projects in the core area of novel applications of genomic technology in healthcare.
Morrison, M. (2012) Promissory futures and possible pasts: The dynamics of contemporary expectations in regenerative medicine. Biosocieties, 7: 3-22.
Morrison, M. & Cornips, L. (2012) Exploring the Role of Dedicated Online Biotechnology News Providers in the Innovation Economy. Science Technology & Human Values, May 2012, 37: 262-285.
Bahadur, G., Morrison, M. & Machin, L. (2010) Beyond the 'embryo question': human embryonic stem cell ethics in the context of biomaterial donation in the UK. Reproductive Biomedicine Online, 21: 868-874
Bahadur, G. & Morrison, M. (2010) Patenting human pluripotent cells: balancing commercial, academic and ethical interests, Human Reproduction, 25 (1): 14-21.
Morrison, M. (2008) Beyond the perils and promise of human enhancement: The social shaping of enhancement technologies, E-Sharp, 12 (Winter 2008).
Martin, P.A. & Morrison, M. (2006) Realising the Potential of Genomic Medicine. Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
My research focuses on the development and impact of novel biomedical technologies such as genetic/genomic tests, regenerative medicine, and novel pharmaceutical interventions and associated issues including, social shaping of technologies, and perspectives from history of medicine and medical technology. Within this general approach, I have a number of related though discrete interests:
- Diagnosis and diagnostic technology – diagnosis concerns both the classification of medical knowledge into the types and categories of disease that can be used to explain sickness, and the (inter)active process of examining patients and assigning them to an appropriate category within that list. Medical technologies play a role in determining which factors can be measured and in what ways these measurements are presented (visualisations, risk assessments, positions on a chart etc) in order to make a diagnostic classification. I am interested in how novel diagnostic technologies then affect (and effect) the (re)framing of disease categories and the meanings given to these categories as they are deployed into practice.
- Developing a sociological perspective on the (bioethical) concept of human biomedical enhancement – A strand of work in contemporary bioethics posits that medical technologies can be evaluated as either ethically acceptable therapies or morally suspect forms of human enhancements, with novel technologies often regarded as having both acceptable and morally problematic ‘dual uses’. From a sociological perspective this dichotomy is problematic in that it assumes a clear, categorical distinction can be made between the ‘proper’ role of medicine in treating disease and other less worthy ‘social’ applications. My interest in developing a sociological perspective on enhancement takes two forms; first in using empirical studies of medical technologies described as having enhancement uses to look at the social factors affecting how scertain uses have come to be accepted and legitimised while others have become contested as enhancements, and secondly by drawing on core work in the sociology of health and illness and medical sociology to conceptualise the issue(s) of enhancement as a social phenomenon.
- The role of expectations and narratives of the future in developing new biotechnologies - A growing body of work in the sociology of expectations has demonstrated how visions of the future, articulated in relation to novel technologies, are not ‘mere hype’, but are fundamentally generative of technoscientific projects. My interest lies in understanding the way(s) in which this process of techno-scientific storytelling shapes understandings (and sometimes the material configurations) of novel biomedical technologies before, during and after their development.