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Egenis · Research

Knowledge Production and European Integration: A Case Study in Stem Cell Research.

Marco Liverani

Start date


Affiliated staff

Christine Hauskeller and Massimo Mazzotti (University of Berkeley)


Profiles: , , and Massimo Mazzotti Email: ml253@exeter.ac.uk

Funded by

University of Exeter, ESRC (Egenis), and Stem Cell Initiative.


The question of European integration has been addressed by a growing and diverse body of academic works. While political scientists have mainly focused on institutional processes and ‘top-level’ dynamics, sociologists and anthropologists have begun to examine Europe as a social and cultural project. With few exceptions, however, sociological work in this area has been largely characterized by a normative rather than empirical stance – the study of what Europe ought to be rather than what actually is.

My doctoral project intends to gain an understanding of European integration ‘at work’, by looking at the specific domain of science cooperation. For several reasons, this can provide a fertile terrain for investigation. First, along with economy, politics and sport, scientific research is one of the few domains which have been clearly europeanised. Although the individual states remain the main actors for the organisation and funding of research activities, during the past decades the Europeanisation of science has been illustrated by numerous examples such as the establishment of ‘big science’ European centres (e.g. CERN, EMBL, ESA), ‘European’ societies and academic journals, transnational research networks, and even entire institutions in higher education such as the College of Europe in Bruges or the European University Institute in Florence.

Second, from the 1980s, the organisation of R & D activities has gained a crucial importance within the overall strategy of the European Union. From the 1980s, the perception of the technological gap with the United States and Japan and the awareness of the inherent link between economic growth and technological innovation have urged European institutions to foster stronger cooperation between research centres scattered over the continent. In the past decade this orientation has become increasingly prominent.

Third, even in the supposedly neutral domain of ‘basic’ science, the creation of a common European platform for scientific research has been hindered by marked differences between national attitudes and regulations, especially in controversial areas such as cloning and stem cell research. As a result, the European Union has had to find a difficult balance between the promotion of scientific research, the principle of ‘subsidiarity’, and the safeguard of common ‘European values’ in the protection of human rights. The study of these dynamics, hence, can add to an understanding of both the integration process and the politics of European identity.


The research design consists of three main stages:
  1. An overview of the history of European research policies and the way in which they contributed to the emergence of new forms of knowledge production, from the 1950s up to present days.
  2. The definition of a framework for the analysis of research networks, by combining methods and insights developed in the sociology of science and social network analysis.
  3. The analysis of the specific case of two EU funded consortia in stem cell science, including the study of group formation, knowledge transfer, the circulation of biological material, and the role of both national and European regulations in affecting the organizational structure of these networks. Data collection involves the analysis of relevant documentation and about 30 semi-structured interviews with scientists and EU functionaries.


Liverani, M., ‘The Rise of Euroscience.’ Bologna Studies in the History of Science, Forthcoming, 2009.