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

Genomics Forum · People

Dr. Emma Frow

Genomics Forum Associate Director and Lecturer in Science & Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh


0131 651 4750






St John's Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ


Emma joined the Forum in May 2006, and has an academic background in natural science. She holds a BA in neuroscience from Cambridge University, and completed a PhD in biochemistry in the department of Medicine at Cambridge. Her doctoral research focused on mechanisms of white blood cell migration (chemotaxis) in chronic inflammatory disorders. Before starting at the Forum, Emma spent two years as a subeditor for the scientific journal Nature. She completed an MSc in Science & Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 2009.


Articles and Publications

Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) Opening up the future(s) of synthetic biology. Futures http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2013.03.001

Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) 'Can simple biological systems be built from standardized interchangeable parts?' Negotiating biology and engineering in a synthetic biology competition. Engineering Studies 5(1): 42-58.

Schyfter, P., Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2013) Synthetic biology: Making biology into an engineering discipline. Engineering Studies Guest Editorial 5(1): 1-5.

Frow, E.K. (2012) Drawing a line: Setting guidelines for digital image processing in scientific journal articles. Social Studies of Science 42(3): 369-392.

Wiek, A., Guston, D., Frow, E. & Calvert, J. (2012) Sustainability and anticipatory governance in synthetic biology. International Journal of Social Ecology and Sustainable Development 3(2): 25-38.

Frow, E. & Yearley, S. (2010) People, Policy and Plant Genomics. In Principles and Practices of Plant Genomics - Volume 3: Advanced Genomics, edited by C. Kole and A. Abbott. New Hampshire: Science Publishers, Inc.

Frow, E.K. (2009) Making BioBricks: The dynamics of standardization and community formation in synthetic biology. MSc Dissertation, The University of Edinburgh [available upon request]

Frow, E.K., Ingram, D., Powell, W., Steer, D., Vogel, J. & Yearley, S. (2009) The Politics of Plants. Food Security 1(1):17-23. doi:10.1007/s12571-008-0007-6

Frow, E.K. (2009) A Forum for 'Doing Society and Genomics'. EMBO Reports 10(4):318-321.

Frow, E.K., Reckless, J. & Grainger, D.J. (2004) Tools for anti-inflammatory drug design: in vitro models of leukocyte migration. Medicinal Research Reviews 24(3), 276–298.

Grainger, D.J. & Frow, E.K. (2000) Thrombospondin 1 does not activate transforming growth factor beta-1 in a chemically defined system or in smooth-muscle-cell cultures. Biochemical Journal 350, 291–298.

Working papers

Frow, E. ‘Perspectives on synthetic biology: BioBricks and the engineering of life,’ discussion paper for a Greenwall Foundation workshop on The Constitutional Foundations of Bioethics, Nov 2011

Frow, E. ‘Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy: Case Study on Bioenergy ’ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.

Frow, E. Genomics, Farming and the Bioeconomy [PDF] ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, March 2007.

Frow, E. Genomics for Biodiversity, Conservation and Land Use [PDF] ESRC Genomics Forum Working Paper, November 2006.

Other publications

Frow, E. (2011) 'Looking ahead: Setting standards for biological engineering,' Genomics Network Newsletter, Issue 13, March 2011, p.20

Frow, E. (2010) 'Counterpoint: will synthetic biology change how we value human life?' Genomics Network Newsletter, Issue 10, March 2010, p.27

Frow, E. (2007) 'My working life,' Genomics Network Newsletter, Issue 6, September 2007, p. 31

Recent talks

‘Social and technical dimensions of standards development in synthetic biology,’ Autumn Symposium of the Centre for Systems & Synthetic Biology, Imperial College London, 14-15 November 2012

‘Synthetic biology and the order of things,’ Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science, Copenhagen, 17-21 October 2012

'A sustainable future for synthetic biology?', Cambridge BioDesign Forum, Cambridge, 25-26 September 2012

'Synthetic biology, BioBricks and the engineering of life,' Greenwall workshop on the Constitutional Foundations of Bioethics, Harvard, 10 November 2011'Negotiating knowledge and value in synthetic biology,' workshop on Knowledge/Value: Experimental Biologies and Translational Research, Chicago, 6-7 November 2011'Building Human Practices into synthetic biology,' Annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science, Cleveland, 2-5 November 2011 (with J. Calvert)'Making big promises come true? Articulating and realizing the value of synthetic biology,' STS Circle Talk, Harvard, 31 October 2011

'A crisis of trust: Setting guidelines for digital image processing in scientific journal articles,' Visualization in the Age of Computerization conference, Oxford, 25-26 March 2011

Research Interests

From 2006-2010, Emma ran an interdisciplinary work programme on Plant Genomics and the Bioeconomy, which comprised a series of workshops, expert meetings, and public events, and has produced a number of publications.

She also coordinated a multidisciplinary Research Council-funded Network in Synthetic Biology (2008-2011). Drawing on her involvement with this network, Emma is currently conducting an ethnographic exploration of the dynamics of standards development in synthetic biology.

Emma's broad research interests include:

  • standard-setting and classification in contemporary biosciences;
  • interdisciplinary collaborations and methods of engagement;
  • governance of biotechnologies and the bio-based economy;
  • objectivity and representation in scientific practice;
  • knowledge production and politics in scientific publishing.

Emma was on leave for the 2011-2012 academic year as a Fellow in the Program on Science, Technology & Society (STS) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (http://sts.hks.harvard.edu/people/past.html), where she worked on a National Science Foundation (NSF) project with Prof. Sheila Jasanoff and colleagues called "Life in the Gray Zone: Governance of New Biology in Europe and the United States."