The Changing Governance of Science? A Critical Inquiry Into the Contemporary Politics and Governance of Natural Science Research as Explored Through the Human Tissue and Embryo Cases in the UK

Gillott, John Mark (2013). The Changing Governance of Science? A Critical Inquiry Into the Contemporary Politics and Governance of Natural Science Research as Explored Through the Human Tissue and Embryo Cases in the UK. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f12b

Abstract

This thesis contributes to a theoretical understanding of change in governance of natural scientific research in the UK. The time period studied in detail is the years of the New Labour Governments, 1997 to 2010. Two case studies were chosen to explore the issues: research using human tissue and research using human embryos. Investigation was guided by these two questions: To what extent and in what way do governance regimes incorporate proposals and approaches developed by social scientists, Science and Technology Studies and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge theorists in particular, and taken up by a range of actors in response to the perceived failures of older regimes? What are the impacts of contemporary governance regimes on natural scientific research? A reflexive theme and approach runs through the thesis. Aspects of SSK and social science theory are drawn upon, as a means to explore governance and as a means to critically explore social science itself. Beyond SSK, a novel reading and combination of Erving Goffman and (more critically) John Rawls is used to interrogate the many dimensions of the performative work of natural and social scientists who were drawn into public engagement and deliberative exercises. The thesis finds that in some areas there has been significant change to the ways in which governance is organised and conducted, and that STS and SSK themes and approaches have contributed to this. The thesis outlines what has been lost: professional discretion; clarity about social science analysis and goals; and clarity about issues of public interest and issues associated with scientific research and knowledge. A typical outcome is greater complexity and greater bureaucrats’ and managers’ influence. That campaigners and STS / SSK theorists did not aim for this is largely true. That they have some responsibility for the outcome is also true.

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