Hacking Life Science Innovation: Navigating Do-It-Yourself Biology in the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

DIY biology is arguably the most controversial offshoot of maker subculture, giving rise to heated debates across the
globe. DIY biologists experiment with gene editing technologies but do not operate under the supervision and safety
guidelines of established institutions. The movement juxtaposes the controversial domain of biotechnology with a
disruptive innovation, anti-establishment ideology. In some nation states, DIY biology raises hopes of a bio-tech
revolution. Elsewhere, it is associated with a dystopian future of high-consequence pathogens escaping from the
laboratories. There are no culturally-sensitive analyses which ask why the movement is celebrated and swiftly adapted in
one country, while it is restricted in others. Therefore, I propose a 3-year, comparative study of three nation states:
Germany, the UK and Canada. This qualitative project explores the social processes involved in the co-production of
imaginaries and policy. The goal of this project is to understand how each country envisions DIY biology differently,
bridging the tension between a controversial, globally networked DIY science movement, and national cultures, identities
and socio-economic objectives. The project's comparative perspective will provide important insights into the lack of
generalizability of ideas about what constitutes innovation. It will additionally present recommendations that enable
policymakers to engage with the challenges of DIY science in culturally appropriate ways.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000738/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2284089 Studentship ES/P000738/1 30/09/2019 31/12/2022 Anna Verena Eireiner