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Genomics Forum · Events

EGN Conference 2013 - Genomes and societies: Global challenges around life sciences

Conference   30.04.2013





Organised by

ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum


One Great George Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA - Link to location map >>

Register: Please register for the conference on our EventBrite page - genomesandsocieties.eventbrite.co.uk

Event details

We're delighted to announce details of speakers - from government, media and research - for the EGN conference at One Great George Street, Westminster, London. The final remainnig speakers will be announced during March/April 2013.

The 21st century is destined to be the era of the life sciences, in a way similar to how significant advances in engineering dominated the 19th century, and developments in information technology shaped the 20th century. Our understanding of genomics and cellular biology is ever increasing, potentially leading to significant progress in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and industry. Yet whilst the technological advances in the life sciences are likely to bring significant benefits, past experience indicates that they will also generate challenges for both individuals and societies.

For the last decade the ESRC Genomics Network has been dedicated to examining the social and economic impacts resulting from the development and use of life science technologies. The Genomics Network has also undertaken a ground-breaking programme of engagement, stimulating debate amongst policy makers, scientists and the public on both the opportunities and challenges presented by emerging developments within biotechnology.

In its final conference, entitled Genomes and societies: global challenges around life sciences, the ESRC Genomics Network will evaluate how the debate around advances in the life sciences has developed during the last decade, and the way stakeholders have been engaged in this. Drawing upon both UK and international examples, the conference will analyse the successful facilitation of links between life sciences, policy development and society, and examine how these can be applied to the socio-economic challenges likely to arise from emerging innovations in biotechnology.

Download the conference programme -EGN13 Genomes and Societies programme download (PDF, 613 kB)


One Great George Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA




Opening Remarks

Adrian Alsop – Director of Research, ESRC

Professor Steve Yearley – Director, ESRC Genomics Forum


Opening Provocation

Keynote: The many roles of scientific advice for governance and policy

This opening talk will provide a stimulus to the meeting by showing that many taken-for-granted assumptions about the role of science and of scientific advisers in government are mistaken or misleading. Offering a view based in the US experience and with observations on the UK situation, this talk will explore the diversity of things which scientific advisers do for governments and political leaders.

Professor Roger Pielke Jr – Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado




Plenary One: What’s special about scientific advice, governance and policy-making in the life sciences?

The twenty-first century is often presented as the age of the life-sciences revolution. This session will focus on the specific opportunities and challenges around science advising and policy-making in the genomics, biotech and biosciences arenas. In particular, there will be a focus on the ways that the societal and ethical aspects of the life sciences are handled in policy circles and on the ways in which public investments in the biosciences are directed and justified.

Chair: Professor David Wield – Director, ESRC Innogen


  • Professor Brian Collins – Professor of Engineering Policy, UCL and former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, and the Department of Transport
  • Andrew Miller MP – Chair, Commons Select Committee on Science & Technology
  • Ken Guy – Head of Science and Technology Policy Division, OECD
  • Professor Joanna Chataway – Co-Director ESRC Innogen/Director, Innovation & Technology RAND Europe




Parallel One

Democratising Sequencing: Next Generation Sequencing and its Social, Political and Ethical Frictions

The availability of sequence data is nothing new. It has been widely publically available since the 1980s. But the ways in which sequence data is being produced are shifting (desktop sequencers; sequencing services, etc.), and this is leading both to vastly increased production of sequence data, and many new ways of making sense of this data. There range from the Personal Genome project to the various crowd-sourced analyses of sequence data that appeared in the 2011 European e.coli outbreak, or currently in response to UK ash dieback. Under the rubric of 'democratisation of sequencing,' this panel will discuss some of the epistemic, ethical and political-economic frictions associated with sequence data. These include problems of continued investment in sequencing and sequence data as the biological lodestar and the increasing potential for biological data linkage to impinge on individual rights.

Chair: Dr Ruth McNally – Principal Lecturer in Innovation, Technology and Management, Anglia Ruskin University


  • Dr Nick Loman – Bioinformatician, MRC Special Training Fellowship in Biomedical Informatics, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Sabina Leonelli – Senior Fellow, Egenis/Director of Postgraduate Studies for Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Exeter
  • Will Spooner – CTO, Eagle Genomics

Global Health and Development

The impact of research on health systems is often discussed in terms of the number of lives saved by new and improved medicines. Questions are less often asked about whether health services build long-term scientific and research capabilities in developing countries, and whether this impacts upon a country’s ability to manage the health of its population or promote economic growth. The recognition that health, education and industrial policy are interlinked and require joined up thinking is at the core of Innogen’s approach to health systems research. This session will pull together knowledge that tends to be separated in broader global health discussions, including issues of agriculture, animals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and health partnerships.

Chair: Professor David Wield – Director, ESRC Innogen


  • Dr Julius Mugwagwa – Research Fellow, ESRC Innogen
  • Dr Rebecca Hanlin – Co-Investigator, ESRC Innogen
  • Dr Geoff Banda – ESRC Innogen
  • Dr Dermot Maher – International Portfolio Manager, Wellcome Trust


Parallel Two

Future Food

The future of food is currently being discussed from a number of different points of view, including the revision of current nutrition guidelines; the value of nutrigenomics and its contribution to ameliorating the ageing process; the ongoing debates about GM and food security; and developments in tissue engineering such as in vitro meat. Into this mix the rapidly developing science of epigenetics and epigenomics is suggestive of factors at work which may impact on our notions of causal and moral responsibility in the context of the purported obesity 'epidemic' This session will explore multiple social and ethical aspects of our relationship with food and the potential tensions between the different interests at stake.

Chair: Professor Ruth Chadwick – Director, ESRC Cesagen/Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff University


  • Dr Neil Stephens – Research Fellow, ESRC Cesagen
  • Dr Richard Twine - Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Social Science, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Ann Bruce - Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
  • Dan Crossley – Executive Director, Food Ethics Council


Epigenetics is one of the most fast-moving and potentially transformative areas of contemporary 'post-genomic' science. It is at the heart of the decentring of genetics that has been an increasingly central, if paradoxical, consequence of exponential growth in genomic knowledge. By demonstrating that environmental influences on the organism can effect changes on the very structure of the genome, it has led some scholars to claim that the traditional nature/nurture distinction, contrasting the influence of genes with that of the environment, no longer makes any sense. It is also controversial, especially with regard to the question of the extent to which epigenetic changes are transmitted trans-generationally, raising the still largely taboo topic of Lamarckian modes of evolution. This panel will explore the current state of, and implications of this important area of scientific research.

Chair: Professor Simon Bright - Chair of the Egenis Advisory Board and formerly a Plant Scientist at Warwick University


  • Professor Marcus Pembrey – Founding Chair of Trustees, Progress Educational Trust
  • Professor John Dupré – Director, ESRC Egenis
  • Dr Ilina Singh - Reader in Bioethics & Society, King’s College London

Governance of New Technologies

For new technologies, policy makers are facing demands to devise and adapt regulatory systems before there is evidence on the nature of future products and processes, potential markets, or the benefits and risks to different stakeholders. They face a major challenge in meeting these demands without unnecessarily inhibiting innovation. Building upon Innogen’s strong research base on the social and economic impacts on innovation in the life sciences and its set of policy and industry engagement activities, this session will discuss methods for improving the success rate of delivering life science products and processes that are both societally useful and commercially viable.

Chair: Professor Joanna Chataway – Co-Director Innogen/Director, Innovation & Technology RAND Europe


  • Professor Joyce Tait – Scientific Advisor, ESRC Innogen
  • Dr Alessandro Rosiello – Research Fellow, ESRC Innogen
  • Alastair Kent – Director, Genetic Alliance UK
  • Edward Godber – SVP Access to Medicines, GlaxoSmithKline




Plenary TwoInnovative Strategies for Engagement Through the Arts

A key innovation of the ESRC Genomics Network has been to devise novel ways of engaging stakeholders in issues around genomics through artistic media: visual, literary and theatrical. Led by the Forum, this session will draw on work from artists-in-residence from across the Network to showcase how arts practices have succeeded in engaging various audiences in debate around life sciences. There will subsequently be an opportunity for delegates to engage with a number of “stalls” within the venue, where a range of artists-in-residence will present examples of their work.

Chair: Professor David Ingram – Honorary Professor, University of Edinburgh/Lancaster University


  • Peter Arnott – Former Playwright in Residence
  • Alistair Gentry – Former Artist in Residence
  • Pippa Goldschmidt – Former Creative Writer in Residence
  • Cameron Duguid and Lindsay Goodall – Documentary Filmmakers in Residence

Bank Westminster, 45 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6BS



Dinner speech from Professor Jon Marks – Professor of Anthropology, UNC Charlotte

DAY 2 - WEDNESDAY 1st MAY 2013

One Great George Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AA




Plenary Three – The Past, Present and Future of Responsible Innovation

Responsible innovation has emerged as an important term in policy discussions about the funding, management and promise of research in the life sciences. In what ways does this concept build on existing research and practice developed in the social sciences, and what new questions or directions does it point us to? What aspects of research and innovation are brought into or fade out of focus with this framing? And what might responsible innovation mean for the interface between the life sciences and the social sciences going forward?

Chair: Professor Hub Zwart – Scientific Director, CSG


  • Dr René von Schomberg – European Commission
  • Professor Richard Owen – Chair in Responsible Innovation, University of Exeter
  • Hugh Whittall – Director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics
  • Dr Jane Calvert – Reader, ESRC Innogen/University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Iain Gillespie – Visiting Professor, ESRC Innogen/University of Edinburgh




Plenary Four – The “people legacy” of the Genomics Network

Research programmes are often assessed in relation to the reports, papers and books they produce. But the Genomics Network has also generated a living legacy through the way in which its postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate researchers have taken their skills and insights to other institutions, sectors and countries. This session will give a flavour of this key impact from the Network by showcasing the work and trajectories of exemplar personnel.

Chair: Dr Steve Sturdy – Head of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh


  • Cesagen: Dr Heather Walmsley - Banting Fellow & Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, University of British Columbia (via pre-recorded video) introduced by Professor Ruth Chadwick – Director, ESRC Cesagen/Distinguished Research Professor, Cardiff University
  • Egenis: Dr Hristina Petkova – Health Economist, CSI, King’s College London introduced by Dr Christine Hauskeller – Senior Research Fellow, ESRC Egenis
  • Innogen: Dr Farah Huzair – Research Fellow, Open University introduced by Dr Peter Robbins - Deputy Co-Director, ESRC Innogen
  • Genomics Forum: Dr Jonathan Suk – Scientific Officer, ECDC introduced by Dr Steve Sturdy – former Deputy Director, ESRC Genomics Forum

Lead into poster exhibition in Great Hall




Telford Theatre

Plenary Five The EGN Impact agenda – how the Genomics Network has influenced policy, debate and understanding in relation to the life sciences

Research conducted by the Genomics Network has had an impact well beyond the academic community. Members of the Network have worked collaboratively with scientists, industry, regulators, policy makers, civil society organisations and diverse public groups. In many instances, these groups have been active participants in the research programme. This session will illustrate the Network’s global reach with presentations from a number of those research partners, demonstrating how research uptake, use and influence have made a lasting impression.

Chair: Dr Catherine Lyall - Deputy Director, ESRC Genomics Forum


  • Dr Richard Watermeyer –ESRC Cesagen Research Fellow in Engagement and Impact in Science and Technology introducing various types of impact
  • Dr Christine Knight – ESRC Genomics Forum, will present the Human Genetics Commission DNA database initiative with Dr Cathleen Schulte – UK Department of Health - Scientific Development and Bioethics Division
  • Professor Joyce Tait – ESRC Innogen, to introduce Dr Michael Oborne (formerly of the OECD and now director of the Las Casas Institute at Oxford University) to discuss Innogen’s work with the OECD on the “Bioeconomy to 2030” report
  • Professor John Dupré – ESRC Egenis will be discussing with Evan Davis of the BBC the impacts of public engagement with reference to the Questioning the Tree of Life project/network and the inaugural Nobel Week dialogue




Telford Theatre

Closing Session – Genomics and societies: Continuing engagement beyond the Genomics Network

In this final session the three research centres within the Genomics Network will outline their research and engagement plans for the future and highlight key continuities between their earlier results and upcoming work. The Network is dead; long live the Network.

Chair: Graeme Nicol, Former ESRC Research Committee Member and Impact Champion


  • Professor Steve Yearley – Director, ESRC Genomics Forum
  • Professor David Castle – Director, Innogen Institute
  • Professor Ruth Chadwick – Director, Cesagen
  • Professor John Dupré – Director, Egenis


  • Professor Paul Boyle - CEO, ESRC

Further details