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Social Studies of Science

Harry Collins, Robert Evans
In this response to Ribeiro and Lima's paper on interactional expertise, we argue that, by not incorporating the insights of constructivist social science, their analysis goes backwards rather than advancing the debate. We show that much of the evidence they present does not lead to the conclusions they draw. We also critically examine the idea of physical contiguity, which forms a central part of Ribeiro and Lima's position. We show that its meaning is ambiguous. We conclude by suggesting that more research on the nature and influence of physical contiguity would be interesting in its own right but that it would not bear on the notion of interactional expertise...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Rodrigo Ribeiro, Francisco P A Lima
Collins and Evans have proposed a 'normative theory of expertise' as a way to solve the 'problem of demarcation' in public debates involving technical matters. Their argument is that all citizens have the right to participate in the 'political' phases of such debates, while only three types of experts should have a voice in the 'technical' phases. In this article, Collins and Evans' typology of expertise--in particular, the idea of 'interactional expertise'--is the focus of a detailed empirical, methodological and philosophical analysis...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Maximilian Fochler
Research and innovation policy has invested considerable effort in creating new institutional spaces at the interface of academia and business. High-tech startups founded by academic entrepreneurs have been central to these policy imaginaries. These companies offer researchers new possibilities beyond and between academia and larger industry. However, the field of science and technology studies has thus far shown only limited interest in understanding these companies as spaces of knowledge production. This article analyses how researchers working in small and medium-sized biotechnology companies in Vienna, Austria, describe the cultural characteristics of knowledge production in this particular institutional space...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Jenna M Grant
Controversies about global clinical trials, particularly HIV trials, tend to be framed in terms of ethics. In this article, I explore debates about ethics in the Cambodia Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis trial, which was designed to test the safety and efficacy of tenofovir as a prevention for HIV infection. Bringing together studies of public participation in science with studies of bioethics, I show how activists around the Cambodian Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis trial circulated and provoked debates about standards of research ethics, as opposed to research methodology...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Adam Isaiah Green
Abstract In this article, I draw from an ongoing ethnographic study of HIV prevention for gay, bisexual, and 'men who have sex with men' to develop an institutional analysis of HIV behavioral intervention science and praxis. I approach this analysis through the lens of the social worlds framework, focusing on the institutional arena in which HIV behavioral interventions are devised and executed. Toward this end, I focus on two fundamental points of contention that lie at the heart of the prevention enterprise and put its social organization in high relief: (1) conceptions of health and lifestyle practices and (2) attributions of expertise...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Susan Lindee
In this article, I reflect on the Radiation Effects Research Foundation and its ongoing studies of long-term radiation risk. Originally called the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (1947-1975), the Radiation Effects Research Foundation has carried out epidemiological research tracking the biomedical effects of radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki for almost 70 years. Radiation Effects Research Foundation scientists also played a key role in the assessment of populations exposed at Chernobyl and are now embarking on studies of workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Peter Redfield
Over the past decade, many ingenious, small-scale gadgets have appeared in response to problems of disaster and extreme poverty. Focusing on the LifeStraw, a water filtration device invented by the company Vestergaard Frandsen, I situate this wave of humanitarian design relative to Marianne de Laet and Annemarie Mol's classic article on the Zimbabwe Bush Pump. The LifeStraw shares the Bush Pump's principle of technical minimalism, as well as its ethical desire to improve the lives of communities. Unlike the pump, however, the straw defines itself through rather than against market logic, accepting the premise that one can 'do well while doing good'...
April 2016: Social Studies of Science
Antoine Lentacker
This essay reviews four recent studies representing a new direction in the history of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical science. To this end, it introduces the notion of a symbolic economy of drugs, defined as the production, circulation, and reception of signs that convey information about drugs and establish trust in them. Each of the studies under review focuses on one key signifier in this symbolic economy, namely the brand, the patent, the clinical trial, and the drug itself. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu's theory of the economy of symbolic goods, I conceptualize these signifiers as symbolic assets, that is, as instruments of communication and credit, delivering knowledge, carrying value, and producing authority...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Achim Rosemann, Nattaka Chaisinthop
The article explores the formation of an international politics of resistance and 'alterstandardization' in regenerative stem cell medicine. The absence of internationally harmonized regulatory frameworks in the clinical stem cell field and the presence of lucrative business opportunities have resulted in the formation of transnational networks adopting alternative research standards and practices. These oppose, as a universal global standard, strict evidence-based medicine clinical research protocols as defined by scientists and regulatory agencies in highly developed countries...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Patrick Brown, Ferhana Hashem, Michael Calnan
This article presents an ethnographic study of regulatory decision-making regarding the cost-effectiveness of expensive medicines at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England. We explored trust as one important mechanism by which problems of complexity and uncertainty were resolved. Existing studies note the salience of trust for regulatory decisions, by which the appraisal of people becomes a proxy for appraising technologies themselves. Although such (dis)trust in manufacturers was one important influence, we describe a more intricate web of (dis)trust relations also involving various expert advisors, fellow committee members and committee Chairs...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Else M Bijker, Robert W Sauerwein, Wiebe E Bijker
Controlled human malaria infections are clinical trials in which healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with malaria under controlled conditions. Controlled human malaria infections are complex clinical trials: many different groups and institutions are involved, and several complex technologies are required to function together. This functioning together of technologies, people, and institutions is under special pressure because of potential risks to the volunteers. In this article, the authors use controlled human malaria infections as a strategic research site to study the use of control, the role of trust, and the interactions between trust and control in the construction of scientific knowledge...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
So Yeon Leem
This study is based on ethnographic fieldwork at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul, South Korea. Examining the three phases of plastic--consultation, operation and recovery--I show how surgeons work to shape not only patients' bodies but also expectations and satisfaction. Surgeons do so in part to assuage their own anxieties, which arise from the possibility of misaligned beauty standards and unforeseen anatomies, as well as the possible dissatisfaction of the patient. I offer the concept of 'surgical anxiety', which occurs in relation to inherently unruly patient bodies in which worries, fear, frustration, self-pity, cynicism, anger and even loneliness are symptomatic...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Masato Fukushima
This study focuses on the 5-year Protein 3000 Project launched in 2002, the largest biological project in Japan. The project aimed to overcome Japan's alleged failure to contribute fully to the Human Genome Project, by determining 3000 protein structures, 30 percent of the global target. Despite its achievement of this goal, the project was fiercely criticized in various sectors of society and was often branded an awkward failure. This article tries to solve the mystery of why such failure discourse was prevalent...
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Sergio Sismondo
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
February 2016: Social Studies of Science
Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, Peter Wade
Using data from focus groups conducted in Colombia, we explore how educated lay audiences faced with scenarios about ancestry and genetics draw on widespread and dominant notions of nation, race and belonging in Colombia to ascribe ancestry to collectivities and to themselves as individuals. People from a life sciences background tend to deploy idioms of race and genetics more readily than people from a humanities and race-critical background. When they considered individuals, people tempered or domesticated the more mechanistic explanations about racialized physical appearance, ancestry and genetics that were apparent at the collective level...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, Peter Wade, Arely Cruz-Santiago, Roosbelinda Cárdenas
Abstract This article examines the role that vernacular notions of racialized-regional difference play in the constitution and stabilization of DNA populations in Colombian forensic science, in what we frame as a process of public science. In public science, the imaginations of the scientific world and common-sense public knowledge are integral to the production and circulation of science itself. We explore the origins and circulation of a scientific object--'La Tabla', published in Paredes et al. and used in genetic forensic identification procedures--among genetic research institutes, forensic genetics laboratories and courtrooms in Bogotá...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
Michael Kent, Vivette García-Deister, Carlos López-Beltrán, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, Peter Wade
This article explores the relationship between genetic research, nationalism and the construction of collective social identities in Latin America. It makes a comparative analysis of two research projects--the 'Genoma Mexicano' and the 'Homo Brasilis'--both of which sought to establish national and genetic profiles. Both have reproduced and strengthened the idea of their respective nations of focus, incorporating biological elements into debates on social identities. Also, both have placed the unifying figure of the mestizo/mestiço at the heart of national identity constructions, and in so doing have displaced alternative identity categories, such as those based on race...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
Michael Kent, Peter Wade
This article analyses interrelations between genetic ancestry research, political conflict and social identity. It focuses on the debate on race-based affirmative action policies, which have been implemented in Brazil since the turn of the century. Genetic evidence of high levels of admixture in the Brazilian population has become a key element of arguments that question the validity of the category of race for the development of public policies. In response, members of Brazil's black movement have dismissed the relevance of genetics by arguing, first, that in Brazil race functions as a social--rather than a biological--category, and, second, that racial classification and discrimination in this country are based on appearance, rather than on genotype...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
Vivette García-Deister, Carlos López-Beltrán
This article provides a comparison between genomic medicine and forensic genetics in Mexico, in light of recent depictions of the nation as a 'país de gordos' (country of the fat) and a 'país de muertos' (country of the dead). We examine the continuities and ruptures in the public image of genetics in these two areas of attention, health and security, focusing especially on how the relevant publics of genetic science are assembled in each case. Publics of biomedical and forensic genetics are assembled through processes of recruitment and interpellation, in ways that modulate current theorizations of co-production...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
Peter Wade, Carlos López-Beltrán, Eduardo Restrepo, Ricardo Ventura Santos
The articles in this issue highlight contributions that studies of Latin America can make to wider debates about the effects of genomic science on public ideas about race and nation. We argue that current ideas about the power of genomics to transfigure and transform existing ways of thinking about human diversity are often overstated. If a range of social contexts are examined, the effects are uneven. Our data show that genomic knowledge can unsettle and reinforce ideas of nation and race; it can be both banal and highly politicized...
December 2015: Social Studies of Science
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