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Past Research Projects

Past Projects

ESRC Politics of stem cell science

The global politics of human embryonic stem cell science

Investigators: Brian Salter, Herbert Gottweis and Catherine Waldby

Regulatory policy is a key political site where competition for the social, scientific and industrial future of human embryonic stem cells takes place at the national, regional and international levels. That competition is driven by global political forces which transcend national boundaries as they seek to influence the future shape of regulatory policy. The aim of the project was to develop an analysis of these political forces, to identify their impact on the UK ESC regulatory regime, and explore their implications for UK policy making. Firstly, building on the existing work of the project team, the legislative, organisational and ideological components of the regulatory models currently in use were mapped in detail and an initial understanding established of the political dynamic at work in this field. Secondly, approximately 100 semi-structured interviews were employedto identify (a) the major pressures for regulatory change from the national and transnational policy networks of civil society, science and industry and (b) further develop the understanding of the political dynamic shaping the likely regulatory response. Finally, the implications for regulatory policy of the analysis thus constructed was explored with UK policy makers.

The project produced three books (Gottweis, Salter and Waldby The global politics of human embryonic stem cell science, Palgrave, 2009; Waldby and Mitchell Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism Duke University Press, 2006; and Cooper Surplus Life - Biotechnics and the Transformations of Capital, University of Washington Press, 2007), 32 social science journal articles and six science journal articles.

Details of the publications and dissemination activities are available in the ESRC website.

ESRC Risk governance

Policy Learning in Risk Governence (Grant # RES-000-22-0987)

Investigators: Brian Salter, Nick Pidgeon, Mavis Jones.

This study examined the decisional processes leading up to the 2004 Canadian regulatory framework for reproductive and genetic technologies. Specifically, the researchers explored the influence on the Canadian framework of the UK equivalent. The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) have been influential in other nations, and this appears to be the case in Canada as well. This project interviewed actors in both contexts to determine the extent of this influence, both positive and negative, and determine how lessons have been drawn throughout the experience of policy development. The results of the project are available in:

Jones, M. and Salter, B (2010). Proceeding carefully: assisted human reproduction policy in Canada. In press, Public Understanding of Science (published OnlineFirst, July 2009). 

ESRC Governance in human genetics

Reforming the Governance of human genetics: The politics of public trust (Grant L218252002)

Investigators: Brian Salter and Mavis Jones

The aim of this project was to analyse the ability of the UK's framework for the governance of biotechnology to respond to issues of public trust in the field of human genetics. Within this, the objectives were:

  • to analyse the main components of the European Union and United States models of governance in human genetics and their assumptions regarding the requirements of public trust
  • given this context, to examine the perceptions of the governance requirements of public trust held by the regulators, consumer groups and the media in the UK
  • against this background, to analyse the politics of the new governance machinery in human genetics in terms of the networks, power relationships and agenda setting capabilities of regulators, consumer groups and media
  • in the light of this analysis, to evaluate the ability of the governance policy to respond to issues of public trust
  • to identify ways in which the policy can be improved.

The results of the project are available in:

Salter B and Jones M (2005) ‘Biobanks and bioethics: the politics of legitimation’. Journal of European Public Policy. 12 (4): 710-732

Salter B and Jones M (2006) ‘Change in the policy community of human genetics: a pragmatic approach to open governance’. Policy and Politics. 34(2): 347-66.

Governing Doctors

Brian Salter contributed a UK based study to an international team working on on medical regulation. The project examined the governing of doctors in four European countries, comparing the country-specific pathways of change. The UK study focused on the following questions:

  • What were the initial components of the clinical governance and revalidation policies?
  • What is the nature of the pressures that have given rise to this lengthy period of policy invention and why have they generated such a sustained policy momentum?
  • How did the policies evolve as a result of these pressures and what does this tell us about the impact of these pressures on the parallel systems of policy formation of state and profession?
  • To what extent have institutions and their values created a path dependency that maintains the policy separation of state and profession?

The results of the study are available in:

Salter B (2006). Governing UK medical performance: a struggle for policy dominance. Health Policy. October.

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