Biopolitics of Science

The social study of Science and Medicine is a rapidly growing area in Australia and internationally. Interest in the field is driven by the perception that technological progress often outstrips the social capacity to assess risk, develop governance and safely embed the bewildering array of scientific innovations. Moreover, developments in the sciences are frequently provocations to the categories and assumptions of social science and the humanities – to the distinction between nature and society, technology and culture, and to our understandings of the origins, meanings, ends and value of human life. Hence, social study of science is a field that can readily combine fundamental conceptual research and interdisciplinary critique with policy relevant analysis.

The premise underlying the Biopolitics of Science Research Network is, then, that the life sciences are increasingly playing a central role in contemporary societies. The impact is most evident in the three decades following the Human Genome Project in which we have witnessed profound debates on how the biosciences are redefining society, politics, and legalities – ranging from controversies in the biosciences (stem cell research, reproductive technologies, organ transplantation) to fundamental problems in law (forensic DNA, genetic parenthood, intellectual property) and citizenship (immigration, genetic ancestry, disability). The BoS Research Network creates a space to explore these profound debates in the social study of science.

Since the founding of the BoS Research Network by Professor Catherine Waldby in 2010 the Network has accommodated an impressive track record of visitors, grants, and events. Around 21 domestic and overseas scholars have visited the Network, 26 (externally funded) research projects have been involved, and 12 highly profiled international events have been organized under its umbrella. Scholarship in the study of science and medicine continues to burgeon; not only empirically (the study of epigenetics and the human microbiome) but also theoretically (discussions on new materialism). Sydney University has an impressive concentration of early career and more senior scholars, postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows researching social studies of Science, dispersed across different Faculties, particularly Arts, Law, Science, Medicine and Health Sciences. The Biopolitics of Science Research Network brings these researchers together to promote dialogue and collaboration, and to give more profile to the field.