PhD Students Seminar

Next seminar:

Friday 22nd February, 2019

12pm - 1:30pm 

Seminar room 1.62 - Old Surgeons’ Hall (map)  

 

Knowing Sex: A Comparative study of the knowledge practices and experiences of teenage girls in Scotland and the Netherlands.

Sophie Buijsen

(PhD student in STIS, University of Edinburgh)

 

AND

 

Surviving the labyrinth: Notes and catharsis of a PhD student in the process of getting access to fieldwork in the NHS.

Andrey M. Elizondo

(PhD student in STIS, University of Edinburgh) 

  

See abstracts and further details below



About the PG Seminar Series:

PG Students in the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation (ISSTI) at University of Edinburgh organise a monthly seminar held on the last Friday of every month. The purpose of this seminar is to provide a friendly academic environment in which PG students can present their research proposals, advancements, field results, findings and benefit from peer constructive criticism.

The seminar is an opportunity to improve presentation skills, to get feedback from colleagues, to strengthen the PG community, and to share our academic worries and questions in a constructive and warming meeting. PhD students from the ISSTI network are welcome and expected to participate if their topics are related to the STIS field. Master by Research students and other academics are welcome to attend the seminar and to contribute to discussions.

Seminars will be held in seminar room 1.62 at Old Surgeons’ Hall, High School Yards. Each presentation is around 30 mins, followed by a 15 min Q&A.

We are always looking for presenters. If you are interested, please submit the preferred date to present, title of presentation and a short abstract (around 200 words) to the contacts provided below.

Contact Information:

  • Sophie Stone (sophie.stone@ed.ac.uk)
  • Nathalie Dupin (nathalie.dupin@ed.ac.uk) 

  

Abstracts for the upcoming seminar's presentations

Date Details

Friday 22nd February, 2019

12 noon - 1:30pm 

Knowing Sex: A Comparative study of the knowledge practices and experiences of teenage girls in Scotland and the Netherlands.

Sophie Buijsen (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

This research project explores the knowledge practices of teenage girls in the Netherlands and Scotland. In this comparative qualitative study I will research how everyday knowledge is constructed. By researching the knowledge practices of teenagers on the subject of sex and sexuality, I will be looking beyond the deficit model of public understanding of science and the moral panic that tends to surround this subject. Instead I’ll be using situatedness and storytelling practices to investigate knowledge communities.

At least… that is the plan. I am a first year part-time PhD student, so this project is very much in its infancy. I will be presenting my project, but would like to use this slot for a more informal discussion of people’s thoughts on and/or experiences of working with sensitive ethical situations, as well as using more participant led research methods.  

 

Surviving the labyrinth: Notes and catharsis of a PhD student in the process of getting access to fieldwork in the NHS.

Andrey M. Elizondo (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

NHS is a large and complex organisation. Far from the image of a single organisation, NHS is a federation of multiple and different levels of autonomous regions-based organisations. This complexity can be an attractive source of interesting phenomena for potential research and studies, both for the wide variety of disciplines involved and the multiple intersections between them.  For an external researcher, getting the access and ethical permissions to conduct empirical fieldwork into this system, can be a long, unclear, time consuming and uncertain process. This talk will approach - in practical ways - the key challenges, lessons, and reflections of an STS PhD student, in the process of getting access to fieldwork in the NHS.

 

 

Previous seminars


 
Date Details

Friday 25th January, 2019

12 noon - 1:30pm

 

The daily, and uncertain, forecasting of the future: An STS approach to the production of environmental performance tools.

José Antonio Ballesteros Figueroa (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

During the past four months, I had the opportunity to work next to an extraordinary team of people interested in forecasting the occurrence of political conflict in a given place at a given time within the next 36 months. While the Violence Early Warning System (ViEWS) is focused on the analysis of conflict, my participation through these months was focused on the possible relation between droughts and conflict. During the endless trial and error and “fixes” that had to be done for this project I could relate to the work done by other members not only of ViEWS but of the Uppsala University (UU) Department of Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR); and the role that different emotions including uncertainty and frustration play while numbers and data are being adequately tailored for a specific purpose. ViEWS could be understood plainly as the result of a strict scientific methodology continuously improving through the inputs of internal and external members. However, it is also the result of personal projects; understandings of what data represents for them; informal negotiations of how procedures should be conducted and recorded, to respect the goal of transparency. This was the first of two participant observations this PhD project aims to conduct; the second one will be held between February and July 2019 at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

As a process of scientific rigour, and a practice of transparency, some of these institutions will provide access to the methodologies, data sets and sources that were used. However, little is known about the effect that daily life events within the organisations, that could be considered ‘mundane’ (and by definition without relevance), together with formal events like seminars and workshops have in the production of environmental performance tools. From an epistemic point of view, this research employs the concept of micropolitics developed by Heidi Nast and Steve Pile (1998) who argue that it is in the day-to-day work of the organisations that knowledge may be outlined for specific purposes.

The aim of this presentation is to discuss some of the main challenges that were faced at DPCR while working within the ViEWS project. This discussion will allow an understanding of how to conduct a participant observation with a community of programmers where most of the daily life labour is digital. Hence, I invite the attendants to reflect on the following questions: how can the analysis of forecasting tools should be understood? If any of these tools is only an academic exercise, without wanting to impact public policy, should their ethical concerns be considered less important? How to conduct a participant observation in buildings where public spaces are limited? Which are the ethical considerations of forecasting events within the next 36 months or 100 years? How can we study machine learning processes where not even the users fully understand their operation?

 

Friday, 30th November, 2018

12 noon - 1:30pm

 

The Cave Lab Project: An Ethnographic Study of Multidisciplinary Collaborations in Cave and Karst Environments.

Simone Sambento (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

The idea of caves as natural laboratories has been around for a long time. Tucked away from the rest of the world, the underground is often seen as the perfect undisturbed setting in which to look at the processes of geology, biology, and archaeology. Karst studies have implications to other areas of social life as well. The complexity and extension of these systems means that they affect environments beyond their geological limit and pose anthropogenic and natural risks in areas such as water contamination, flooding or land collapse. With the type of promises and challenges they hold, caves and the systems where they form become predominantly places of science. One of the consequences of this ontology is that science then emerges as the voice speaking for the knowledge of caves. This issue gains relevance in the context of multidisciplinary cave collaborations, where different disciplines, practices and peoples work together. Illustrative of this is a recent cave collaboration which gave rise to a dispute between professional archaeologists, amateur speleologists, and the representatives of the governing body funding the project, regarding what knowledge counts as more authoritative and legitimate and who should have access to the cave. 


My study follows the work of multidisciplinary teams conducting research in the Basque Country, and looks at the challenges and opportunities the encounter between different disciplines, practices and institutions might open up. It asks the questions: Who are the actors involved in these collaborations? How are caves being constructed as labs? In what ways do these multidisciplinary collaborations create opportunities for diverse practices and knowledges to emerge? How does the incorporation of different practices and knowledges allow for innovations that affect the future of the collaborations and the cave?


To answer these questions, I will look at the interplay between those who work in these environments and regulatory frameworks, and how this affects on-the-ground decisions and their outcomes in multidisciplinary cave projects and interventions. I have chosen to focus on three different cave projects within the same geographical area, and will conduct a 12-month ethnographic study with the teams working on them. This will involve participant observation above and below ground, semi-structured and informal interviews, and documentary research. I will also do some historical research pertaining to cave studies and exploration.

 

Friday, 26th October, 2018

12 noon - 1:30pm

 

Enter Player One: intended and unintended consequences of gaming

Courtney Kidd (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

Enter Player One is a preliminary look at how games, specifically massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and virtual reality (VR), are shaping the world around us. Looking at how games influence the individual and society, we can then seek to understand how we may harness them for social good on both a micro and macro scale, specifically within education and public health needs. 


The Moral Question Concerning Sex (and) Robots: Nonhuman Liberation from Viral Diseases or Ultimate Objectification? 

Vassilis Galanos (PhD Student, University of Edinburgh STIS)

An introduction to the relevance of AI at large, public portrayals and basic literature on sex robots followed by an exploration into sex robots as part of an age-old narrative co-produced with all the technosocial/sociotechnical machinations of STDs, morality, sex dolls, fascinations and anxieties with the artificial.

 

Thursday, 18th May, 2017, 2-3.30pm
Data Protection Attitudes: A comparative Study of Europe and Latin America

Yazmin Morlet Corti (1st year PhD student in Politics, University of Edinburgh)

This PhD project addresses how political cultures influence users’ behaviour online. Scholars indicate that privacy is interconnected with culture patterns (Cockcroft & Rekker, 2016; Milberg, Smith, & Burke, 2000). For the effects of this work, privacy is understood as individual control over personal information in different settings (Raab et al., 2011).
Political culture on an individual level has different ways of being conceptualized and measured (Lane, 1992; Wildavsky, 1987). The main focus of this project will combine a series of political culture values that observe levels of individualism (Elazar, 1987; Douglas, 1999;  Hofstede, 2001; Mamadouh, 1999). In order to contextualize this, it will be necessary to incorporate trust (Inglehart & Baker, 2000) and privacy knowledge practices online (Malhotra, Kim, & Agarwal, 2004; Smith & Milberg, 1996).
These variables are motivated by Westin’s survey findings which suggest that individuals are pragmatic, meaning more open to give away information in exchange for personal gain. Scholars throughout the years have tried to refute this evidence, mainly because in practice people behave differently that what surveys indicate (Jin Park, 2008). 
This comparative study will focus on users in Mexico and Spain. It will result in an online game simulation on user privacy behaviour. This tool is aimed to be both educational and will allow the comparison of user behaviour from these two countries. I expect users from a country which is more individualistic to be more exposed in regard to their privacy behaviour. This work will contribute in the field of data protection and behaviour in a comparative perspective. 
 
Keywords: privacy, online behaviour, data protection, political culture, game simulation.

 

Decentralising the Internet of Things: reflexions on researching long-range wireless community networks

Andres Dominguez (1st year PhD student, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh)


Disease is a core concept in regulating access to benefits in National Insurance Schemes (NISs) across Western countries. In the Norwegian NIS, disease is the only legitimate cause (apart from disability and injury) for entitlements such as sick leave or disability pension. As gatekeepers, general practitioners (GPs) in Norway are therefore charged with determining the presence of disease and its causal relationship with the patient’s symptoms when access to benefits is considered important for handling the patient’s situation. Using focus group interviews with GPs, I ask how GPs’ manage this task when patients present with health conditions whose disease status and aetiology are unknown or ambiguous. Chief among these conditions are persisting health complaints characterised by the presence of subjective symptoms and the absence of objective signs of disease; the patient feels ill, but the doctor is unable to verify the presence of a known pathology. Often referred to as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), such conditions are among the largest groups of complaints in primary care. I find that GPs struggle to define the disease/non-disease boundary and that they adjust or reject the disease criterion, as they find appropriate. Moreover, the question of disease seems relatively unimportant compared to determining whether the benefit in question will improve the patient’s total life situation. I discuss those findings, and ask whether complying with the regulatory disease criterion is actually possible at all.

Thursday, 20th April 2017, 2-3.30pm Mitigating Modification?

Understanding the Societal and Ethical Implications of Mitochondrial Replacement Therapies and Genome Editing Technologies in the UK Context 2006-2018

Fiona Coyle (PhD student, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh)

In February 2015, the UK became the first country to legalise mitochondrial replacement therapies (MRTs), which create offspring with genetic material from three individuals. In February 2016, Dr Kathy Niakan's team at the Francis Crick Institute became the first to receive permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to use the genome editing technique 'CRISPR-Cas9' in human embryos. These recent developments have prompted a great need for academic discussion of these technologies. My doctoral project proposes that a comparative case study of MTRs and CRISPR will produce a rich account of the techniques, leading to a better understanding of how societal and ethical arguments surrounding these technologies are produced, reproduced and mobilised within the unique regulatory landscape of the UK. My talk aims to outline the case studies and relevant actors in the debate as well as summarising my theoretical and methodological approaches to the project. I finish with a short discussion of Simone Bateman Novas and Tania Salem’s view in Embedding the Embryo that “questions about embryos are rarely addressed to social scientists […]”, concluding that bioethical discussion is an important domain for STS research.

Ambiguous conditions, fuzzy concepts and unruly doctors

The problem of complying with state regulation in assessment of patients for insurance benefits

Erik B. Rasmussen (PhD student, Centre for the study of professions, University College of Oslo)

Disease is a core concept in regulating access to benefits in National Insurance Schemes (NISs) across Western countries. In the Norwegian NIS, disease is the only legitimate cause (apart from disability and injury) for entitlements such as sick leave or disability pension. As gatekeepers, general practitioners (GPs) in Norway are therefore charged with determining the presence of disease and its causal relationship with the patient’s symptoms when access to benefits is considered important for handling the patient’s situation. Using focus group interviews with GPs, I ask how GPs’ manage this task when patients present with health conditions whose disease status and aetiology are unknown or ambiguous. Chief among these conditions are persisting health complaints characterised by the presence of subjective symptoms and the absence of objective signs of disease; the patient feels ill, but the doctor is unable to verify the presence of a known pathology. Often referred to as medically unexplained symptoms (MUS), such conditions are among the largest groups of complaints in primary care. I find that GPs struggle to define the disease/non-disease boundary and that they adjust or reject the disease criterion, as they find appropriate. Moreover, the question of disease seems relatively unimportant compared to determining whether the benefit in question will improve the patient’s total life situation. I discuss those findings, and ask whether complying with the regulatory disease criterion is actually possible at all.

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 2-3pm

Racial Taxonomy in a Colonial Multi-Institutional Network: A Narrative from American Occupied Philippines from 1898 to 1946

Dayana Ariffin (PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh STIS)

The Americans occupied the Philippines from 1898 to 1946, using an assemblage of institutions to accomplish their imperial goals. The construction of a racial taxonomy of the Filipinos was partially a result of the heterogeneous undertakings of these colonial institutions. The interactions, collaborations and regressed commitments between institutions in the metropole and in the colony warrant an investigation as to what had really contributed to the eventual racial taxonomy of the Filipinos. I intend to describe the interactions between the vicissitudes of institutional actors in the American-occupied Philippines and present a narrative on the catalyst to and consequence of the scientific concept of race and racial taxonomy as was propounded in the early 20th century. 


Friday, 3rd March 2017, 3-4.30pm

Negotiating Expertise: The Challenge from the Internet

Tim Squirrell (PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh STIS)

The view of expertise propagated by Collins and Evans in The Third Wave of Science Studies: Studies of Expertise and Experience attempts to identify expertise ex ante, defining it as something which inheres in individuals who have tacit knowledge of a subject gained through immersion in a community. In this talk, I challenge this view in two ways. First I illustrate the sociological limitations of such a position. Second, I show through an analysis of the problems presented by online communities with respect to proper negotiation and attribution of expertise and authority that the Collins and Evans view is lacking in its ability to tackle these issues. I propose an alternative which centres around the attribution of expert status by particular audiences for the purpose of solving particular problems. Some implications of this view for those who seek to be called experts are discussed.


Vicissitudes of Controversy: An Introduction to Citation Network Analysis

Rhodri Leng (PhD Candidate, University of Edinburgh STIS)

The success of a scientific theory depends, in part, on how it is communicated; at least, communication is a necessary pre-requisite for the sharing of knowledge. My doctoral project proposes a particular analytical framework for understanding the evolution of scientific knowledge, by viewing it as a product of human communication. In this talk, I focus on the convention of citation in the modern scientific literature, which, I argue, can be used to study the dynamics of the transition from experimentation and observation to knowledge held by a wider group of scientists. As such, I posit that the quantitative analysis of citation data can be used to study aspects of the diffusion and acceptance of theoretical schemas in science. From this, I introduce citation network analysis, a methodology that applies social network analysis and graph theory to citation data to quantitatively map and analyse this diffusion, and discuss its application in my thesis. I finish with a short discussion of how this approach may be integrated into STS theory and practice, and outline where it may diverge.

Thursday, 24th November 2016 

Maritime Interdiction in the War on Drugs in Colombia: Practices, Technologies and Technological Innovation

Javier Guerrero C.(PhD Candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies)

Since the early 1990s, maritime routes have been considered to be the main method used by Colombian smugglers to transport illicit drugs to consumer or transhipment countries. Smugglers purchase off the shelf solutions to transport illicit drugs, such as go-fast boats and communication equipment, but also invest in developing their own artefacts, such as makeshift submersible and semisubmersible artefacts, narcosubmarines. The Colombian Navy has adopted several strategies and adapted several technologies in their attempt to control the flows of illicit drugs. 

In this research I present an overview of the ‘co-evolution’ of drug trafficking technologies and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Navy to counter the activities of drug smugglers, emphasizing the process of self-building artefacts by smugglers and local responses by the Navy personnel. The diversity of smugglers artefacts are analysed as a result of local knowledge and dispersed peer-innovation. Novel uses of old technologies and practices of interdiction arise as the result of different forms of learning, among them a local form of knowledge ‘malicia indigena’ (local cunning). The procurement and use of interdiction boats and operational strategies by the Navy are shaped by interaction of two arenas: the arena of practice - the knowledge and experience of local commanders and their perceptions of interdiction events; and, the arena of command, which focuses on producing tangible results in order to reassert the Navy as a capable counterdrug agency. 

This thesis offers insights from Science and Technology Studies to the understanding of the ‘War on Drugs, and in particular the Biography of Artefacts and Practices, perspective that combines historical and to ethnographic methods to engage different moments and locales. Special attention was given to the uneven access to information between different settings and the consequences of this asymmetry both for the research and also for the actors involved in the process. The empirical findings and theoretical insights contribute to understanding drug smuggling and military organisations and Enforcement Agencies in ways that can inform public policies regarding illicit drug control.

Thursday, 20th October 2016 

‘Building up a great research institute’: James Cossar Ewart and the birth of animal genetics in Edinburgh, 1890-1919

Clare Button (Research Fellow, Centre for Research Collections, Main Library, University of Edinburgh)

Edinburgh has a long history of animal genetics research, which can be traced to the establishment in 1919 of the Animal Breeding Research Department (later the internationally renowned Institute of Animal Genetics). However, the complex factors underpinning the development of this area of research in Edinburgh have not hitherto received scholarly attention. This paper will shed new light on Edinburgh’s place in early British genetics history, drawing upon archival sources including the recently catalogued papers of James Cossar Ewart, Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh between 1882-1927. Although a marginal figure in genetics historiography, it will be seen that Ewart’s pioneering breeding experiments, creation of an experimental station and institution of Britain’s first genetics lectureship  consolidated Edinburgh as the focal point for research in this area. However, Ewart’s personal ambitions ultimately played a role in delaying the creation of the Department and the appointment of its director. This paper will situate Ewart within local and national networks of biologists, presenting an alternative to the dominant narrative of “the Cambridge Mendelians” in British genetics history.

Thursday, 25th February 2016

Beyond Bridges: Knowledge Brokers and Research Impact on Policy
Justyna Bandola-Gill (PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies)

This presentation focuses on knowledge exchange organisations established at UK universities and their embodiment between the calls for “evidence-based policy” (e.g. Cabinet Office, 1999, 2000) and “useable science” (Ingold & Gschwend, 2014). An important dimension at the intersection of these two postulates is the dominance of “impact” as an assessment criterion for academic endeavours. So-called knowledge brokers represent one of the strategies established within higher education to secure research impact on behalf of individual researchers or research groups (ESRC, 2009).

In this presentation I will discuss the results coming from the pilot study for my PhD project. Focusing on university-based knowledge exchange organisation opens up the possibility of exploring a multiplicity of different “impacts” in context, as well as the limits of the research-based policy change. So called knowledge brokers facilitate cooperation between different groups within academia and policy; therefore their work entails navigation between varied epistemologies and cultures within and across these two realms. Examples of conflicts they have to facilitate include these of pure vs. applied; general vs. particular; search vs. codification; paradigm breaking vs. taking stock. Finally, I will discuss strategies these organisations adapt in order to impact on policy formulation.

Biographical approach to an ecology of innovation: analysis of a strategic information system in the auto-industry
Valeri Wiegel (PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies)

This study addresses the need to articulate a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the contextually-shaped, often highly contingent processes of technological innovation. For this purpose a single, in-depth longitudinal case study was conducted of the development, implementation and use of a strategic information system - a strategic network planning tool - in a German car company. It was analysed applying a biographical perspective which argues for extended analytical foci across multiple sites, moments and time frames in technology studies to account for the complexities and uncertainties inherent in technological change processes. A mixed repository of historical and ethnographic data has been collected, drawing on documents, interviews and extended periods of participant observation at multiple sites. As a result, the empirically detailed focus on a twelve-year period is contextualised by a historical narrative considering corporate historical developments over three decades. The analysis throws light on strategies for sustaining an innovation project over time through the continued reconfiguration of the relationship between the technology project and its context, highlighting how these challenges were patterned by both broader historical developments and the local circumstances of the social setting in which the project was embedded. This talk will focus on the narrative representation of the empirical data. 

Thursday, 28th January 2016

Theme: Knowledge transfer and the creation of research and technological capabilities in transnational cooperations in Latin America

Knowledge production inside multinational clinical trials: vaccine evaluation in Colombia, Brazil and Mexico
Sara Valencia
PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies 

Currently in Latin America, pharmaceutical companies are conducting multinational clinical trials (MCT) to introduce a vaccine for a pandemic tropical disease in the region. The approval of vaccines lies on reliable scientific evidence that demonstrate that the product is safe, efficacious, and efficient to be used on humans. To obtain this data, a protocol is designed and implemented in different localities at the same time. However, coordinating MCT in the region to produce standardized, compatible, and reliable results is challenging. Firstly, the diverse number of actors involved in the trials (pharmaceutical companies, Contracted Research Organizations, research teams, regulatory agencies and ethical review boards) implies the creation of interconnected and individual strategies to manage their internal and external knowledge, expertise, and capabilities. Secondly, the difference between countries on their regulations, technological capabilities, and social aspects affects directly the development of the trial. Using a multi-disciplinary perspective, this PhD project aims at identifying and analysing the challenges and strategies implemented by the actors to mobilize, learn, and produce scientific knowledge on multinational clinical trial conducted in Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico.

The role of regional innovation systems (RIS) in creating technological capabilities (TC) in the agricultural sector of Northwest Mexico: the cases of Sonora and Baja California Sur
Abel Villa
​PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Technological capabilities of firms have been regarded as an important strategic resource enabling them to achieve competitive advantages. In emergent economies, the presence of Transnational Companies (TNC) in regions or localities change the behavior and thus the dynamics of local companies when it comes to adding value to their products. These linkages are known as Global Value Chains (GVC), where international linkages can play a role in accessing technology and knowledge and enhance the learning process and innovation. In this sense, agriculture in Mexico, especially in the Northwest region, has undergone changes as a result of presence of TNC, where they have created interactions with global markets. In this context, it has not been explored how this learning process takes place in primary sectors like agriculture nor considers the participation of firms in GVC. In addition, the Northwest region of Mexico shows signs of a locus where the generation of scientific knowledge oriented towards the needs of sectors, the social cohesion, the trust generated among the civil society, business and their willingness to cooperate may influence the learning process of firms to build Technological Capabilities. This research project aims to understand how firms that participate in GVC generate technological capabilities, but also how actors and institutions that are present in a region may have taken part in the learning process of Technological Capabilities. 

Thursday, 3rd December 2015

Theme: Unravelling Genetic Medicine

Temporal translation and the pursuit of the ethical in human gene therapy
Courtney Page Addison
​PhD fellow, the University of Copenhagen

Governance of the new genetics is frequently framed in the ELSI paradigm, and governed by concentrated moments of ethical review, manifesting in informed consent, or Research Ethics Committee approvals. My doctoral fieldwork, which investigates human gene therapy in a UK hospital, suggests that the ethical realities of gene therapy overflow such measures. To explain this incongruence between the rules and reality I turn to translation. In bioscience translation refers to the adaptation of laboratory research for use with human subjects. However the term has been adapted by STS scholars to highlight the enrolment of support into technoscientific projects. I argue that another type of translation is undertaken through human gene therapy: the translation of futures (encapsulated in research objectives, individuals’ hopes, imaginaries of the field) into practicable work in the present. It is the fact that this space is doubly translational that forecloses any simplistic ethics, necessitating instead a more nebulous type that embraces both the uncertain and the imagined.

The history of prenatal testing in Scotland
Paula Blair
​PhD student, the University of Glasgow

Prenatal testing is an important component of antenatal care in our current society, which enables detection of fetal abnormalities during pregnancy. Whilst it is now a well-established clinical discipline, the history of prenatal testing has been short, with first descriptions appearing in the 1950s. A number of techniques, such as amniocentesis, were developed in the decades that followed, enabling detection of a variety of abnormalities. Many researchers worked on developing prenatal testing methods and implementing them into clinical practice, and in the West of Scotland a key figure involved was Malcolm Ferguson-Smith. He played a central role in developing prenatal tests for Down’s syndrome and spina bifida, and was responsible for establishing one of the first specialised genetic diagnostic services for patients in the United Kingdom. This project will examine the history of prenatal diagnostic testing alongside the case study of Ferguson-Smith’s career to provide a detailed picture of the development of prenatal diagnosis over time.

Thursday, 26th November 2015

Theme: Knowledge and Practice in Policy

Rethinking Reflexivity in DEFRA and DECC?
Michael Kattirtzi
PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

My PhD thesis investigates the contribution made by in-house government social researchers in the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, between 2001 and 2015. This presentation is a first attempt to articulate some overarching conclusions and implications for future research and practice. Drawing on diverse examples from across environment, energy and food policy areas, I will argue that this study has revealed that government departments are epistemically diverse and dynamic institutions. 

A particularly novel finding (I believe) is the observation that social researchers are perform a ‘challenge function’ to the policy officials they work with. That is to say that they are expected to question their colleagues’ ideas, knowledge claims, approach and assumptions when these clash with the analyst’s expert judgement. Does this challenge function comprise a form of ‘institutional reflexivity’? Can institutional reflexivity arise from within a government body? And if so, what does this imply about the uses of expert advice in the UK government?

Values in Context: Rhetoric and Repertoire in the European Strategy for Particle Physics
Chihwei Yeh
​PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

What is the value of particle physics research? How is it represented in the policy or strategic documents and why? In this presentation, I will discuss my work-in-progress of document analysis. I investigate a set of documents from the European Strategy for Particle Physics (ESPP), convened by CERN between 2005 and 2013. The purpose of ESPP is to secure financial support from the public sector, and its documents are inscribed with persuasive discourses to seek support. Therefore, I regard these documents as a space of communication that can never be separated from human practices and interactions. And I employ a constructionist discourse analysis approach to investigate how and why the value of particle physics is represented. 

I argue that the value of particle physics, articulated and inscribed in the documents, is a strategic deployment serving various communication purposes in different discursive contexts. It is not an incontestable fact or truth, as particle physics is coated with a wide spectrum of values—from scientific, cultural to socio-economic values. Meanwhile, they fall into tensions or paradoxes with each other in the narrative constantly. I will provide examples of these tensions and paradoxes to explain how I develop my interpretation of the communication strategy of ESPP through document analysis.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Theme: Contemporary history of and social inquiry into science

The Emergence of a European Approach to the Human Genome Project
Gulsah Albayrak
Visiting PhD Student, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

The Human Genome Project was biology’s first large-scale project: it took 13-years to sequence all three billion base pairs of life’s instruction book. The Human Genome Project still stands out as being one of the most important consortium-based big science projects in history. It also brought a bunch of social discussions with it. Who owned the project? Was it worth doing? How much would it cost? There were also ethical and legal considerations, The project itself was mainly perceived as a US initiative. The aim of this presentation is to look at the events from a European perspective and show the European contribution to this project. I will make a comparison between different research cultures among different nations, in order to look through the divergent patterns of the US and European approaches. I will mainly focus on the origins, long term/short term goals and coordination of each approach.

A sociology of a psychology of error
Thokozani Kamwendo
​PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

My thesis is a recent history of the developments in the study of human cognition. The ideas that stem from these developments were over the 80’s and early 90’s adopted by economists to form the field now called Behavioural Economics. In this talk I will give a summarized version of the story of the formation of Behavioural Economics but my main focus will be on explaining the major themes of my thesis, particularly my use of the concept of the sociology (psychology) of error as an analytical tool.

Thursday, 18th June 2015

Theme: ‘Bio/geo-graphies of innovation’ – Rockets and Textile Clusters.

Speakers: Matjaz Vidmar and Owais Anwar Golra.

Abstracts:

It IS Rocket Science! – Understanding New Product Development (NPD) Through “Biographies of Innovation”

Innovation research often finds itself in a somewhat ill-defined conceptual and methodological area between STS and Management/Business studies.

Whilst the combined pool of resources available to a researcher in this field are an exciting propect, one soon finds oneself on a mine-filed of choices to make (often to do with political rather than purely academic agenda!) which end up pulling you either one way or the other.

This talk will give an overview of the challenge of “staying in the middle ground” whilst researching Innovation in the UK/Scottish Space Sector. I am developing a mixed methods approach “Biographies of Innovation” which attempts to include the best from both sides of the “boundary”, in order to study NPD and its environment on a micro level in SMEs and research institutions.

Finally, deploying an overarching framework of (Sectoral) Systems of Innovation, I hope to find out how does business development/incubation support affect the NPD processes and what (if anything?) makes it effective.

Again, who said it was not rocket science?

Understanding learning and innovation in emerging countries: A case of Textile Industrial Cluster in Pakistan

There is now strong awareness among business and industrial scholars, that learning and knowledge creation is critical to the competitiveness of firms and regions. Particularly, clusters are considered as key driver of learning and innovation.

The literature on Industrial Clustering and geographic agglomeration is one of area that has contributed a lot on the notion of knowledge spill over, localized learning and innovation. The key claim of this literature is that due to industrial clustering or geographic agglomeration of economic activities, individual firms in the cluster improve their learning and innovative performance because of the externalities or localized knowledge spill over. In other words, meso-level clustering of economic activities influence the micro-level learning and innovation by firms.

However, recently there is increasing awareness that the literature on geographic clustering and spatial agglomeration has overstated the role of spatial proximity with in clusters in knowledge transfer to the individual firms, and undermine the important role and internal efforts of individual firms in knowledge creation, learning and innovation with in the clusters. In this regard, scholars have shifted the focus of investigation from cluster level to firm level and, hence tried to explain how firm level characteristics can explain the learning and innovation outcome of clusters.

More recently, the research has shifted the emphasis on the knowledge networks in cluster knowledge system and the dynamics of such networks. Several scholars have highlighted that this is the least studied and debated issue in innovation and regional studies. Previous studies have investigated the technical and market oriented knowledge linkages in horizontal networks only and ignores the important role of vertical linkages in the learning and innovation process.

The current research will fill this gap by investigating both horizontal and vertical knowledge linkages to explain the dynamics of knowledge networks with in the textile industrial cluster in Pakistan. The study will use social network analysis and graph theoretical approach to investigate the knowledge system in the textile industrial cluster.

Tuesday, 24th March 2015

Human needs and ‘greater goods’: Investigating the ‘engineering imagination’ in synthetic biology
Chris Wood, PhD student, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies 
Jamie Auxillos, Master student, Systems and Synthetic Biology

During this talk we will discuss attempts to engineer life through synthetic biology (SB). Introducing a case study of artemisinin, an anti-malarial drug produced through novel SB technologies, we ask what it means to engineer living systems to serve human needs. One of the commercial partners in the development of artemisinin, Amyris, is a US based SB company which states a commitment to“disruptive innovation for the greater good”. 

One attribute of industrialising synthetic biology is to systematise and standardise living matter into interchangeable biological parts.  The analogy with computer programming, and ‘DNA as code’ is often recited as a model for achieving this vision. Such representations have a performative effect on talk of SB, exemplified by various references to the field as the ‘next industrial revolution’.   We examine this framing in relation to ‘biological production’, and ask where such imaginings might fit with discussions of SB as a set of technologies for the ‘greater good’.

In the present context of financial uncertainty, growing gaps between the rich and poor, and a global stage of health and wealth inequities, is it expected, or even necessary, that we pursue a commercially driven vision of SB? 

Tuesday, 24th February 2015

Are we alone in the Universe? Toward an ethnographic account of the search for life as we don't know it
Valentina Marcheselli
PhD Student, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

The question “are we alone in the universe?” is one of the grand questions that has accompanied humankind throughout its whole history. During my PhD, I would like to explore the processes through which life is defined and reassessed in the contexts of the search for extraterrestrial life. Thanks to the ethnographic study of two settings, the UK Centre for Astrobiology and the Radio-Astronomical Station in Medicina (Italy), I will try to get involved in astrobiologists' and SETI practitioners' epistemic cultures. My aim is to explore how they build new knowledge about life as it could be elsewhere, what kind of instruments, practices and narrative they make use of, and how they rethink the concept of life when bringing it into play in relation to extraterrestrial contexts.

Ethnography and common sense
Meritxell Ramírez-Ollé
​ESRC PhD candidate, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Part of the merit and success of ethnography lies on the researcher being able to capture and describe the common sense of the people she studies. This idea has led me to think about the distinction between ethnographical and everyday knowledge. What are the sources of ethnography's exceptionality? How can social scientists produce knowledge of the social reality that is original and illuminating for academics and ordinary people alike? I will address these questions and others by drawing on examples from my own ethnographic research.

Thursday, 29th January 2015

A Critical Approach to Climate Change Blogging from a Science and Technologies Studies Perspective 
Giorgos Zoukas
​Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

The long-standing controversy about climate change and its causes takes place primarily in traditional academic forums and through NGOs, while the mass media, particularly the television and print newspapers, affect the public opinion in different ways. Today, distinct internet formations like websites and weblogs (blogs) provide an important amount of information about climate change. The character of “climate change blogs” (which are a subdivision of the wider category of “science blogs”) as relatively new platforms of computer-mediated communication (CMC) of climate change knowledge is the subject of my study. In particular, through a qualitative multiple-case study of climate change blogs run by working scientists, my aims are to explore: a) whether and how these blogs can be seen as new forms of communication practices related to science; b) whether and how new types of knowledge are being created in their "sociotechnical" environments.

Monday, 7th April 2014

Inside the Digital Music Distribution: Changing Dynamics and the Paradoxes of the Music Industry
Hyojung Sun
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Having instantiated a society characterized by the unregulated and uncompensated distribution of intellectual property, the shift from mechanical to digital reproduction has disrupted the idea of ownership. The debut of Napster, the first successful digital music service based on Peer-To-Peer (“P2P”) technology, suggested the possibility of an imminent and radical transformation within the music industry.

After fifteen years of trials and errors since Napster, the music industry appears to be entering a new phase in which consumers are attracted more to legitimate digital music services than free, and often illegal, options. The recent growth of the revenue generated from digital music produced a strong optimism in the industry.

My empirical research based on the interviews with forty music entrepreneurs and in-depth analysis of two case studies, INgrooves[1] and Spotify[2], provides detailed dynamics of the digital music industry in transition. By investigating the underlying dynamics of the technological development in the music industry, my research argues that the dichotomised view of digital technology neglected the crucial aspect of ‘learning’ that is subject to conflicts and different power struggles, and thus produced a prediction of the industry departed from the actual process of technological innovation.

[1] INgrooves is a digital music distribution aggregator whose distribution platform is also used by Universal Music Group.
[2] As the fastest growing digital music provider, Spotify prompted many commentators to acclaim the arrival of technological innovation in the music industry.

Anomalistic psychology and parapsychology in Brazil: a case study of the science demarcation problem
Fernanda Loureiro Goulart
PhD candidate, Universidade Estadual de Campinas

My research aims at taking part in the debate concerning science demarcation, which is understood as the definition of what are the criteria that make it possible the identification of what science is. The main objective is to discuss the dynamics of science demarcation through a specific object of study: a group inside Brazil’s biggest public university (the University of São Paulo, USP), Inter Psi, and its attempt to develop and spread a new subdiscipline of psychology, namely anomalistic psychology. The research undertaken involves ethnographic observations of the group and analyses of their papers, books, theses and dissertations. It seeks to observe and identify the strategies devised and followed by the members in order to achieve their goal of disseminating anomalistic psychology in Brazil, as well as understanding the differences and similarities between the anomalistic psychology they now defend and the parapsychology they used to represent (since the founding members of Inter Psi have been active parapsychologists for two decades).

Keywords: science demarcation; anomalistic psychology; parapsychology

Monday, 3rd March 2014 

Travel, travellers, and natural history: the role of romantic science in the rise science in Brazil (1800-1850)
Marcelo Fetz
PhD in Sociology (State University of Campinas), Visiting Post-Doc (STIS - The University of Edinburgh)

Since the “Pombal Reforms” in Portugal and Brazil in the second half of eighteenth century, Rio de Janeiro has faced an interesting increasing and strengthening of its cultural life; in 1808, the “Metropolitan Reversal” (the transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil) encouraged the establishment of new and important cultural places (Botanical Garden, Art and Science School, local Press, etc., etc.); and, in 1810, after opening its ports in a new economic agreement with England, Brazil has become a regular destination to travellers naturalists. In other words, the first half of nineteenth century has been the golden age of scientific expeditions in Brazil: the culture of curiosity and the culture of precision from natural history has turned Brazilian’s nature and culture in a subject of scientific study.

This PhD thesis explored some scientific activities developed in Brazil (especially in Rio de Janeiro) during the early nineteenth century. It shows that the most travellers that has arrived in Brazil during this period have been working under the influence of the “romantic science”: to describe and to classify the nature, naturalists were using unusual scientific methods, like “subjective feelings”, “landscaping paintings”, and “literary descriptions”. My main interest is to show how this ‘romantic conception of life’ was received in Brazil and how the artistic field has become the centre of Brazilian scientific activities in the nineteenth century. Taking “Goethea cauliflora” and “Goethea semperflorens” as a case study, it was possible to shed light in the social network that has connected science, art, and literature in Brazil.

British Electricity Policy in the Flux- Paradigm Ambivalence and Technological Tension
Seyed Emamian
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Drastic changes have taken place in UK electricity policy over recent years as government has sought to address the challenges associated with energy security, affordability and commitments to reduce carbon emissions. This study investigates the underlying policy changes between the year 2000 and 2012, particularly the Electricity Market Reform, as the most fundamental transformation in the British power market since liberalisation, almost three decades ago. It illustrates that although this policy had revised the long legacy of market-based and technology neutral electricity policymaking, it was yet to be claimed as a wholesale paradigmatic shift, because, as of 2012, it still suffered from a form of paradigm ambivalence and socio-technical lock-in. Furthermore, this research identifies an accumulative process of policy change explaining how a complex set of dynamics transformed the UK electricity policy mix.

The thesis draws relevant approaches within policy studies that attend to address continuity and change in policy frameworks, in particular the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier 1999) and Policy Paradigm (Hall 1993) perspectives. The study contributes to this literature in three distinctive ways. First, it questions the adequacy of existing frameworks for conceptualising policy change in ‘large-technical’ and ‘techno-centric’ subsystems, such as electricity policy. In return, it introduces technology preference, as a policy component capturing the socio-technical elements of electricity policymaking. Second, to explain why and how such significant changes had been undergone, it forms a bridge between the characteristics of policy change and the extent that existing policies are perceived as irreconcilable policy failures. By this, it, albeit, moves beyond the conventional typology of change drivers in policy literature. Third, this research extends the emerging concept of negotiated agreement and policy compromise as a pathway to evolutionary changes (Sabatier & Weible 2007). Inspired by Institutional Change theory (Mahoney & Thelen 2010), it proposes that compromised policies are often at the risk of policy reversibility and retrenchment, subject to any shift in the contextual conditions they have originated in. Overall, the thesis provides an understanding of one of the very complex and contemporary cases for studying policy change theories. 

Monday, 3rd February 2014 

Invisible Workers of the Copyright World, Unite! Disintermediation, Interoperability and the Social Shaping of Copyright Licensing in the Digital Age
Hung The Nguyen
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

This doctoral study will explore the social shaping of the Copyright Hub - a UK-based initiative to streamline copyright licensing in the digital age. 

The idea of constructing such a system originated in Hargreaves' review (2011) of the UK's Intellectual Property (IP) framework and economic growth. It is argued that digitalisation have been and will continue to further undermine the existing IP system, especially copyright, by enabling radically different modes of licensing and access to cultural content. A Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE) was proposed as a major part of an integrated solution for such problems. Following this recommendation, a feasibility study into DCE was conducted by Hooper (2012), which revealed major licensing issues, found both within and across, different sectors of the creative industries. These findings led Hooper and Lynch (2012) to a proposal for building the Copyright Hub, which would link interoperably and scalably to the growing body of DCEs in the UK and beyond, in order to make copyright licensing cheaper and easier to use, with special focus on the small and medium enterprises' (SMEs) segment.

In this doctoral research, I propose to study the origins and evolution of the Copyright Hub by tracking the interest and inclusion/exclusion of various stakeholders in its construction, as well as, examining how these perspectives help in shaping the innovation's trajectory. A further dimension of this research will look at the way IP management is internationalised an dcoordinated across national and regional borders through studying the Copyright Hub's interoperation with its counterpart developed in Singapore, known as the IP Hub. Finally, I wish to use this research as a chance to reflect upon the social consequences of technological change through an empirical case study of digital technologies' intervention in copyright licensing.

  • Hargreaves, I. (2011). Digital Opportunity - A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth (p.123). London
  • Hooper, R. (2012). Rights and Wrongs - Is copyright licensing fit for purpose for the digital age? (p.72). London.
  • Hooper, R., & Lynch, R. (2012) Copyright works - Streamlining Copyright Licensing for the Digital Age. (p.70). London. 

The utility of 'medicalization': Exploring medicalization in the context of assisted reproductive technologies in Colombia
Malissa Shaw
​Sociology

As medical technologies spread to new locations they encounter unique settings where they both shape and are shaped by the local context. The dissemination of these technologies from the developed world - where they are created - to the developing world raises questions about the adoption, use, and meanings contributed to these technologies around the globe. Furthermore, it brings in to question concepts and theories that we as social scientists use to deconstruct and understand these processes. In particular, I am interested in the utility of the concept of medicalization, a concept that has begun to be questioned by some scholars in recent decades, as once non-medically recognized ailments are incorporated into the medical gaze in new settings. Through an analysis of the adoption and use of assisted reproductive technologies in Colombia, I will explore the applicability of the concept of medicalization in a highly stratified context where medical intervention in reproduction is a norm for some and a desire for many others.

Monday, 2nd Dec 2013

"The best job in the world": The meanings of donation and donated tissue in the context of the Danish donor sperm industry
Alison Wheatley
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies 

Denmark is a major exporter of both anonymous and identity-release donor sperm worldwide, and is home to one the world's largest sperm bank networks. Moreover, the country's legal framework allows for donors to make the choice whether to be anonymous or to release their identity to potential offspring. As such, it represents an interesting case study for an investigation into the experiences of sperm donors. This paper draws on a period of fieldwork at a major Danish sperm bank between September 2012 and February 2013, including thirteen in-depth, semi-structured interviews with donors. These interviews were carried out either face-to-face in the sperm bank, via Skype or via email.

This paper discusses some of the preliminary findings of the research; in particular, discourses of 'work' and 'production' in the sperm donation process. I explore the relationship between masturbation/pleasure, technology, and payment in the sperm bank, with reference to masculinity, virility, and donors' embodied experiences. I also examine the concept of 'good sperm' and the routines of discipline and body maintenance that donors undertake in order to achieve this. I draw on notions of 'sex work' and 'reproductive work' to theorise the position of sperm donors in the assisted reproduction industry.

Social Structures and Financial Organisations
Javier Hernandez
​Sociology

Although there is an increasing interest in social sciences amongst policy makers in financial services and investment organisations, not enough is known about the way financial organisations and activities interact with their social environments. In particular, there is a need for more research into the way financial activities are integrated into broader social structures. This talk is about a comparative study analysing the practices of financial organisations and their employees in two very different social environments: the UK and Chile. From 38 in-depth interviews with financial practitioners in London, Edinburgh and Santiago de Chile about their job trajectories and experiences, and a database of 165 cases based on LinkedIn profiles, it was possible to analyse the practices of financial organisations in the UK and Chile, with an emphasis on the way they interact with global financial trends and local distributions of power and resources. A sociological account of organisational processes such as recruitment, socialisation, staff allocation, promotion and organisation of work within firms in these countries allowed for description and analysis of the way firms’ practices are related to their social (structural, symbolic and institutional) contexts. The research shows that Chile’s position in the global financial market and local distribution of resources encourage more traditional organisational practices, especially in terms of recruitment, socialisation, staff allocation and promotion, as well as activities performed and the way services are provided. In the UK, on the other hand, all of the above-mentioned processes are more technical, formally designed and competitive. 

Monday, 4th Nov 2013

Information and Communication Technologies & Social Work: A Structural Approach
Janan Dean
​Social Work, School of Social and Political Science

Social work has not actively engaged with STS theory as a way of understanding the organizational and professional issues arising from increased implementation of IT in social service workplaces. I will discuss how STS theoretical frameworks can be used to differentiate existing social work research into three distinct groups based on their underlying assumptions about technology. Areas where STS theory could be useful to address gaps in social work knowledge, as well as recommendations of possible future collaboration will be discussed. 

Regenerative Medicine Venturing: Entrepreneurial Behaviour and New Venture Development Under High Levels of Perceived Environmental Uncertainty
David Johnson
​Science, Technology and Innovation Studies and Edinburgh Business School Entrepreneurship Group

Resource assembly is a fundamental entrepreneurial task during new venture development, closely linked with the testing and implementation of the firm’s business model. However, within highly uncertain environments, entrepreneurs struggle to identify which resources to assemble and coordinate and, therefore, collaboration and knowledge exchange mechanisms may be especially valuable, because they can enable early stage ventures to develop capabilities in order to exploit opportunities. A sector characterised by extremely high levels of environmental uncertainty is regenerative medicine (RM), which is driven by university-based stem cell research. The UK currently occupies a world leading position in RM research, yet despite this, RM venturing has been slow and the venturing process remains unclear. As such, this study seeks to understand how uncertainty in RM impacts of entrepreneurial behaviour and new venture growth. The outputs of this research have been theoretical and practical implications, speaking to organisational and entrepreneurship scholarship, and RM practitioners, including university technology transfer offices (TTOs). This presentation will consider preliminary research findings of RM venturing and will suggest directions for further research. 

Monday, 7th Oct 2013

Ethnographic analysis of development programmes to establish and grow rural markets for small-scale renewable energy technologies in sub-Saharan Africa
Gill Davies
Centre for African Studies

Koray Çaliskan and Michel Callon (2010) have proposed a research programme for the study of markets. The marketisation process starts when objects are 'pacified': qualified with meaning and value by various competing agents that turn objects into stabilised, transferrable goods. My research focuses on the role of development intermediaries as agnets of marketization, using the case study of sustainable energy products designed for rural households in sub-Saharan Africa. By looking through the lens of two NGOs promoting markets for pico-solar kits and clean cookstoves and putting these humanitarian goods at the centre of the analysis, I will try to disaggregate some of the processes and complexities involved in market-making in rural African contexts.

ÇALIŞKAN, K. & CALLON, M. 2010. Economization, part 2: a research programme for the study of markets. Economy and Society, 39, 1-32. 
The spectre of artefacts
Vasilis Tsiatouras
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Various recent articles will be presented from archaeology, biology and cognitive science demonstrating the artefact as the defining factor of human evolution and its impact on human cognition and societal organisation. The emerging picture of knowledge is that of a materially induced altered state of consciousness.  

Monday, 25th April 2013

Promoting innovation in subsistence-based agriculture
Vera Mugittu
Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Using the work done by the DFID-funded Research-into-Use (RIU) project to commercialize the rural poultry industry in Tanzania, the study seeks to understand whether innovation behaviours of subsistence producers can be deliberately influenced towards increased learning and use of technology. If yes, how, and what has the potential to achieve that. By analysing what RIU project did, and the consequent dynamics within the poultry producer households, the study seeks to establish whether routines in the subsistence based-poultry enterprises actually changed and how such changes behaved in respect to the behaviour of the entire industry. This will involve looking at how learning took place, how actors interacted and how different dynamics and changes emerged and how they were managed- and by who? The quest is to finally be able to theorise how an innovation process can be externally induced, orchestrated and managed through a deliberate public action to help rural-based agro-industries escape a subsistence trap.

From "cardboard boxes" to "plastic bags": the organizational shaping of derivative pricing models in global banks
Taylor Spears
​Sociology

Derivative pricing models are essential to many activities related to derivatives trading within large financial institutions, including the valuation and risk management of financial instruments, the calculation of regulatory capital reserves, and the determination of profit and lost of accounting purposes (and by extension, trader bonuses and compensation). Despite their prominent role within modern banks, very little social science research has investigated how the development of these models is shaped by the social and organizational context within which they are used.

This presentation will examine the development of arbitrage-free interest rate models from the late 1970s until the early 2000s. While all interest rate models share a common origin, by the late-90s, this area of research had splintered into two relatively separate intellectual communities, each with their own empirical. Whereas financial economists focused on understanding the macroeconomic drivers of interest rates, researchers in the nascent field of "mathematical finance" oriented themselves towards creating models to meet the day-to-day needs of traders dealing in 'exotic' interest rate derivatives, a field which grew large in the low interest rate environment of the 90s.

Through this historical lens, I examine how the day-to-day practices and ontologies employed by traders came to promote the development of highly flexible models that could fit (or 'reproduce') the market prices of a wide variety of derivative instruments, in contrast to the comparatively 'rigid' models preferred by financial economists. I will end my talk with some speculative remarks on the social significance of a cognitive divide between the academic finance and financial mathematics communities.

Monday, 25th March 2013

Electricity and state-making in Ghana and Tanzania
Ivan Cuesta Fernandez
Centre of African Studies

The project looks at the role of access to electricity in the process of state-making in sub-Saharan Africa. Gaining access to electricity in a particular location is likely to entail several impacts: 1) an increase in the capacities of hte state (e.g. taxation, legitimacy); 2) an increase in the capacities of non-state elites (e.g. tax evasion, extraversion); 3) a re-configuration of the strategic interactions between local elites due to the insertion of a new actor, the state utility. Unfortunately, only a few scholars (mostly historians) have addressed the role of electricity in state building, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th century Western Europe and the US. This project aims therefore at enriching the literature on infrastructures and political systems by underscoring the role played by electricity.

Exploring Organizational Routines in Project-Based Organisations
Dajana D'Andrea
Business School

In this paper, we explore the antecedents that enable routines to recur in project-based organizations (PBOs), first by creating a bridge between the literature on organizational routines and the literature on project-based organisations, and then drawing on ideas from organization theory and role theory. Relying on inductive case study research, recent conceptualization of routines, and combining top-down theory and bottom-up approaches to data collection and analysis, we show that there is a compensation effect among routines' antecedents in project-based organizations and that role conflict can hamper the smooth execution of routines.

Technological innovation and the War on Drugs: The Biography of Narcosubs, 1993-2013
Javier Guerrero
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

The Colombian Navy seized a narcosubmarine in 1992, near the island of Providencia. This vessel was the first recorded seizure of a new type of artefact developed for the specific purpose of trafficking narcotics. Since then, and until 2013, most captures have been along both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Colombia and Central America. Most of the vessels were en route from Colombia and locally built. Throughout this period, the evolution of drug submarine technologies, evidenced in the increased load capacity, the introduction of advanced navigation systems and the use of new building materials, suggest the development of local skills and knowledge to manufacture of such artifacts. Drug smugglers use a variety of technological artefacts to increase their efficiency and reduce risk in the transportation of narcotics. Despite its crucial role, the process of technological innovation within the drug traffic networks remains unstudied.  

I will argue how and why the Narcosubmarinos can be used as an analytical too, which will serve as an access point to the issue of technological innovation in the War on Drugs, so that starting from these makes possible to organizing and make sense of the data and the different actors and actions invovled, the analysis of this artifact allows the understanding of the dynamics of the Drug Smuggling Organizations and Law Enforcement Agencies in terms of their relation to macro factors constituting the War on Drugs.

I will present some concepts of the Social Studies of Science and Technology (STS), to analyze the co-evolution of technologies in drug trafficking and the techniques and technologies used by the Colombian Law Enforcement Agencies (Navy and Police) to counter the activities of drug traffickers. In order to meet the stated objectives I will carry out a qualitative research, based on analysis of primary and secondary sources. And some initial empirical findings that allows to understand the technological trajectories of narcosubmarines. 

Thursday, 21st Feb 2013

Computer science developments in Afghanistan
Eva Hoffmann
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

Computer Science (CS) is a fairly new discipline in the higher education system in Afghanistan. In the last years it became one of the most desirable study degrees within the country and the Ministry of Higher Education has identified it as a key driver in their strategic planning for nation-building and socio-economic development. In the centre of my research are the young lecturers in CS and their role in the development of the discipline. The particular situation in Afghanistan is shaped by many social, cultural, political and economic elements as well as a strong presence of international donors. As a methodological framework, a combination of situational analysis and action research has been chosen to get an understanding of the situation as well as to bring changes and improvements through action and reflections of the lecturers within the CS discipline.

Exploring the Socio-technical Dynamics of the Creative Commons Licensing System: The Case of Open-Content Filmmakers
Evangelia Giannatou
​Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

This project examines the interaction between ICTs, legal innovation (the Creative Commons licensing system) and social and economic practices. It focuses on how this interaction generates a new range of possibilities in producing and distributing creative works without neglecting to explore the social practices that surround and sustain both new and old ways of cultural production. More specifically, it investigates the ways that online communities such as the Open Content Filmmakers, their audiences and the Free Culture Movement are utilising Creative Commons licenses in order to develop novel business strategies through creative collaborations which are better adjusted to the new ICT ecosystem. Open licensing systems and user communities are viewed as mutually constitutive and therefore the aim is to capture the interactions and exchanges between innovative business practices and legal innovation (Creative Commons) as they develop simultaneously by their interconnection.

Monday, 28th January 2013

Towards a conceptualisation of the role of trust in science
Meritzell Ramirez-Olle
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

This talk will give an overview of the different sociological literature produced in the social studies of science that can be used to understand the role of trust in science. This review will later be compared to some of the empirical findings obtained from my own fieldwork with climate scientists.

Investigating the views and experiences of gamete donors in the context of UK identity-release legislation
Leah Gilman
​Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

Since April 2005 in the UK, any person wishing to donate their gametes for therapeutic purposes must first consent to identifying information about themselves being disclosed to any donor offspring, should they seek such information after reaching the age of eighteen (HFEA, 2012). Current UK donors therefore donate with the knowledge that, should their offspring be informed of their donor-conceived status, they may be contacted by individual(s) conceived from their donation. This presentation outlines a proposed doctoral project to investigate how donors, in this identity-release context, make sense of the process and consequences of gamete donation. Variation and similarities in the views of different donors will be explored, examining the social and cultural factors which may influence their understanding and experiences. Such factors will include the immediate social environment of the clinic, as well as wider cultural expectations and ideals, relating to gender, gift-giving, identity and family relationships.  

Monday, 26th November 2012

Dynamics of knowledge base complexity: An inquiry into oil producing countries' struggle to build innovation capabilities
Ali Maleki
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies 

According to conventional wisdom, the petroleum industry is often classified as a 'resource based' and 'mature' industry. Therefore, it is subject to the 'resource curse' thesis, exhausted of 'technological opportunities' and offers limited capacity for knowledge based economic growth. This study questions this line of reasoning due to its inadequate attention to the dynamics of the nature of knowledge. Exploring the technological complexity of this sector, a complementary argument is presented. We show that this sector has recently experienced a surge in 'technological opportunities', however the 'systemic complexity of the knowledge base' constrained many oil producing countries' enjoyment of these emerged opportunities. This view does not deny all sorts of other 'non-cognitive' factors which may limit advantages of resource based industries, but highlights the dynamics of knowledge base complexity as an important 'cognitive' barrier for building innovation capabilities in endowed countries. 

This study is broadly based on the 'Sectoral Innovation Systems' approach which, with its recent extensions to the context of latecomer countries, highlights the role of technological regimes in catch-up possibilities and strategies. Nonetheless, knowledge base complexity is an under-researched element of technological regimes. This research contributes in three ways. First, it introduces a dynamic and three-dimensional view of the knowledge base complexity at a conceptual level, and hypothesizes its implication for patterns of innovation and catch-up processes. Second, a quantitative methodology is developed to examine the proposed hypotheses. Third, the conceptual and methodological suggestions are empirically examined in the context of upstream petroleum industry.  

The findings propose that the sector has gone through phases of transformation and reconfiguration, the most recent of which has been a major shift towards a technological regime with both high opportunities and systemic complexity. The dynamics of complexity is reflected in the patterns of the knowledge base, and in sectoral, organizational and geographical patterns of innovation with meaningful and interesting dynamic associations. The shift of the sector from Schumpeter Mark I to II, emergence of major Integrated Service Companies as new system integrators of the sector, and slow down and stop of geographical disperson of innovation are interpreted as the signs of systemic complexity in recent years. The very scarce examples of catch-up in a few advanced oil producing countries suggest that high innovation opportunities in complex industries are mostly open to countries with both advanced national innovation systems and accumulated production experience. The sector-wide cumulativeness stemming from systemic complexity creates high cognitive barriers to entry for latecomers. For latecomer countries to benefit, their industrial policy needs to cope with increasing complexity, mitigating its coordination costs and facilitating the integration of distributed catch-up processes. This highlights the key role of 'late comer systems integrators' for successful catch up. 

What works?: Following social constructionist discourse in Climate Change Policy-Making in the United Kingdom, 2008-2012
Michael Kattirtzi
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

Social scientists often employ social constructionist arguments to problematise conventional science and policy discourses and to advocate alternative interventions. But how have these social constructionist discourse been shaped by antagonistic or complementary discourses? And to what extent have social constructionists shaped the analytical and interventionist frameworks of the actors they have engaged with? My research will ask these questions with a focus on the climate change policy domain in the United Kingdom. In particular, I will be exploring two cases. The first case concerns interventions to reduce citizen energy use in the home. This is an area in which behaviour economics discourses appear to dominate in civil service institutions. The second case concerns interventions to increase public acceptability in climate science institutions, following recent controversy. Here, a discourse of open data appears to be dominant amongst civil service departments and funded partners. Yet, a social constructionist discourse promoting public dialogue around uncertainty and risk appears to have gained traction. My research will trace discourse through document analysis and interviews with social scientists, scholars from other fields, civil servants, non-government organisations and other actors. I expect to draw comparisons which have implications for social scientists, policy actors and the impact agenda. 

Monday, 29th October 2012

The UK electricity policy change and paradigmatic shift: The Case of Electricity Market Reform
Seyed Emamiam
Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

While the necessity of a substantial change towards sustainability in energy system seems uncontroversial, the exact frame of the problem, the prospect of sustainability and the role of government in this fundamental transformation are still quite contested. In the case of UK energy policy, after a long period of the orthodox dominance of a liberalised market-based energy paradigm with a very marginal role of state, admittedly there is a pattern of energy policy re-birth alongside a substantial change in the policy objectives from competition and cheapest price towards low-carbon, secure and affordable energy system. 

This research is shedding light on the complex process of policy evolution and paradigmatic shift in the UK electricity policy leading to the formation of Electricity Market Reform in 2011, as an obvious sign of policy change and 'the beginning of another likely paradigmatic shift'. For this analysis, a combination of policy process frameworks and policy change theories has been used to explain how and under which contextual situation electricity policies are developed and evolved. As an integrated analytical framework, I have used some elements of Sabatier's Advocacy Coalition framework and Hall's Policy Paradigm collectively. The analytical rationale behind this combination is to provide a comprehensive framework to examine the contextual factors framing the energy policy context; the role of idea in policy change; the complementarities of interest and politics for ideational theories; and; the distinctive levels of policy change.

Growing Right. The Case of the WHO Child Growth Standards
Natalia Nino Machado
​Science, Technology & Innovation Studies

Child growth reference charts have been used since the 1960s in order to assess children's growth, implement nutritional surveillance and compare how different groups of a population are growing. In 2006, an important breaking point occurred in the history of anthropometry and nutritional assessment, when the WHO released new growth charts for international comparison after promoting since 1975 the use of the charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). According to the WHO, the new charts were designed to indicate how children should grow for the best health outcome and therefore they have been promoted as the first child growth standards. My research interest is centered in understanding what kind of values and ideals regarding children's bodies and their health status are embodied in the process of construction of the new charts and how they are mobilized in terms of design, use and propagation.   

Thursday, 27th September 2012

The role of content of knowledge and knowledge integration abilities in time to market in New Technology-based firms in Colombia
Elizabeth Montoya, Business School

The technology-based business literature identifies the commercialisation as a critical state of start-ups, and the lack of market knowledge is presented as one of the causes of the valley of death because the slower the exploitation of market knowledge, the slower the invention become a marketable product. The literature points out the importance of knowledge in creating technology based start-ups (Audretsch and Keilbach, 2008, Shane, 2005, Vendrell-Herrero et al., 2011). Knockaert et al. (2011) state that a firm's success will depend on how well it can (1) enhance its own knowledge base; (2) integrate knowledge; and (3) apply knowledge to either successfully develop new products/services or improve current ones. Entrepreneurial teams aiming to create technology-based firms, need to have the capability to create and utilize knowledge in such a way that new firm has the ability to gain and sustain a competitive advantage (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). Although the models presented for entrepreneurial learning consider the source of knowledge, by considering the new knowledge (obtained from external sources) and the internal knowledge (prior knowledge - previous background), none of the models presented include content of knowledge as a variable, and content of knowledge is a critical variable in new technology firms. Thus, for the purpose of this research, learning entrepreneurship is defined as the process of integrating market and technical knowledge; this definition highlights the importance of integrating internal and external knowledge, which can be technical or market knowledge, in developing new technologies (new products or services) that are expected to be commercialized. 

Social Shaping of a Strategic Information System in a German Car Company
Valeri Wiegel, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Most information system (IS) studies focus on a particular stage of the life cycle of the IS, be it the technological design and development or implementation and use of the IS. Pollock and Willimas (2010) propose the Biography of Artefact (BoA) perspective to study information infrastructures taking into account the multiplicity of locales and time-dynamics involved in innovation. Inmy research, I appropriate the BoA perspective for the ethnographic study of a strategic information system (SIS) developed by a large car company (LCC) in Germany. SIS applies Operations Research (OR) methodologies and is used by strategic planners of production and supply networks to make decisions considering the uncertainty and complexity inherent in markets and production systems. The study makes visible the many choices and incidences that historically shaped the particular SIS and, thus, opposes the perception that success of OR application "happened by chance, by luck, and by the blessings of the OR gods" as Gass (2011) put it in his review of the evolution of OR.