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Genomics Forum · Research

Animals and Genomics

Dr Matthew Harvey

Start date



Dr Matthew Harvey


Animals appear in many places in genomic research, from the relatively benign process of ‘barcoding’ DNA sequences to identify particular species and animals or to inform taxonomic research, to more contentious applications such as the genetic selection or modification of animals to enhance the quality of meat, or to produce animal models of human disease states.

This work connects with longstanding debates about the role of animals in science and society, including the casting of animals only in instrumental terms or the continued development of practices that cause distress, but is also likely to raise new issues and questions. Although the overall number of animals used in scientific procedures is falling over time, the genome mapping of species of economic or scientific significance enables new and more intense ways of using animals in research and agriculture.

Moreover, animal genomics generates new ways of thinking about what animals are, how they evolve and relate to each other, and the relationships between animals and humans. Despite this, within social science animals have remained largely invisible, and the social science of genomics has viewed it as a human issue with the role and significance of animals passed over. This project begins with the belief that animals are an integral part of society and that animal genomics has social and public policy implications.


The aim of this project is to understand the context and shaping of the science of animal genomics, and its implications for the social position of animals and current and future regulatory and policy developments. Specifically, the work stream will:

  • Consider the science of animal genomics, addressing the direction and technical challenges within this science. This will cover direct research on animals (e.g., in agricultural applications) and other areas where animals are used (e.g., in human health research);
  • Reflect on the implications of this work for the social position and cultural construction of animals, human-animal relationships and conceptions of ‘nature’, ‘animals’ and ‘human’;
  • Address policy issues for regulating/ governing animal genomics and for exploiting animal genomic research.

This work programme addresses the key theme of ‘Understandings of Nature, Humanity and Society’.


A scoping meeting (pdf) for this work programme was held in December 2004, and an expert workshop (pdf) was convened in April 2006. A special issue of the journal Genomics, Society and Policy, with academic papers from that workshop, will be published in August 2007.

For further information, please contact: forum@genomicsnetwork.ac.uk


Animal Genomes in Science, Social Science and Culture (2006) by Matthew Harvey (PDF). This is currently being revised for submission to Genomics, Society and Policy.

More Starfish Than Shrimp, More Cat Than Mouse? Locating Humans on the Tree of Life; paper presented to European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) conference, Lausanne, August 2006.