Society, laboratory, and research process: the social-shaping of...


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Title Society, laboratory, and research process: the social-shaping of biotechnological research into virus diseases
Period 10 / 2002 - 12 / 2010
Status Completed
Dissertation Yes
Research number OND1278138
Data Supplier METIS Wageningen Universiteit en Researchcentrum


Many scientists in biotechnological disciplimes would argue that social scientists can only analyse the social consequences of biotechnology, thereby asserting the technical autonomy of their subject. Although natural scientists sometimes admit that social interactions and politics play a role in shaping the development of scientific instructions, for example in the allocation of resources, they would nevertheless claim that, at the end of the day, the content of new scientific knowledge and the specific technical artifacts based on this knowledge are in now way directly affected by these institutional factors. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to find that scientists are so intensely concerned with the way their research departments are organized and worried by managerial interventions. One might imagine that scientists would shrug their shoulders and say "what does it matter...truth will out in the end...". Perhaps social organization (the pattern of working relationships within the laboratory, and between the laboratory and wider society) has a more far-reaching effect on what scientists do and think they are at first to admit. It is in pursuit of this notion that the present study will attempt to pin down wether, where and how organizational factors matter in biotechnology research, by tracing links between the wider social context, organisational variables, and scientific outcomes of biotechnology laboratories. The ultimate aim is to show the existence of a relationship between biotechnology laboratories as a social-technical organisations, sustaining a specific institutional culture, and biotechnology laboratories as producers of specific scientific knowledge and artifacts and that this relationship is undergoing change. Modern biotechnology is being developed in a complex and changing network of various institutional settings, ranging from the private sector to public institutes at national and international level. Some analysts have argued that the interaction between these settings has led to a change in organizational structures of the settings and even to hybrid trans-institutional structures. Although laboratories are to a large extent closed and stable organizations, interactions with the larger environment may change their social-technical organization. This project will document existing form of interaction processes and organizational structures, and analyze the relation between the two. Furthermore, the project will document the iverse reactions of scientists to interaction processes which cross the boundaries of their laboratory and analyze the consequences of these reactions in terms of organizational structure, institutional culture, and research processes. Special attention will be payed to the process of boundary building in the interaction processes. The multi-locational ethnographic case study will address a network of three interrelated research settings, but focus centrally on a university research group located in the centre of the network. the elements are as follows:- The biotechnology department of SG Seeds; - Wageningen Agricultural University Department of Virology; - International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

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Supervisor Prof.dr. M.J.J.A.A. Korthals
Supervisor Prof.dr. P. Richards
Co-supervisor Prof.dr. H.G.J. Gremmen
Co-supervisor Prof.dr. G.T.P. Ruivenkamp
Project leader Prof.dr. H.G.J. Gremmen
Doctoral/PhD student Ir. B. van Asselt


D18200 Plant production and animal production
D61000 Sociology

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