Article ID: CBB369714455

New Democratic Sciences, Ethics, and Proper Publics (May 2018)


In this article, I examine the rhetoric of democratic science within the field of synthetic biology. The still emerging field of synthetic biology claims to be a new kind of science based on the promises of affordable medicines, environmental bioremediation, and democratic, do-it-yourself (DIY) science practices. I argue that the formation of a more democratic, DIY portion of this field represents an intervention into ethics debates by becoming “the proper informed public.” Through an analysis of twelve DIY and community-based synthetic biology organizations’ websites, I found that democratic science was presented as a novel, progressive approach to science that addresses ethical concerns and at the same time produces better scientific results. In part, these claims were made possible through a reconfiguring of the boundaries between Science and the Public where scientists lay claim to solidarity with the public at large in opposition to traditional biosciences and Big Bio. My research suggests that the superficial use of the language of rights and democracy relegitimizes the primacy of scientific discovery to solve societal problems. I further suggest that by becoming the proper informed public, ethical challenges from publics critical of genetic sciences may become delegitimized.

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Authors & Contributors
Metzger, Ellen
Alexander Bogner
Curren, Randall
Crooks, Roderic N.
Karel Martens
Jan-Peter Voß
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Social Studies of Science
Science Education
Science and Education
Public Understanding of Science
University of California Press
University of Pittsburgh Press
The MIT Press
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
Science and technology studies (STS)
Protest movements
Social justice
Science and society
Polyani, Karl
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, late
United States
Bhopal, India
Baltimore (Maryland, U.S.)
European Union
Disaster Management Institute (Bhopal India)

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