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The Construction of the ‘Environment’ in Epigenetics Research: A Social Study

Epigenetics research highlights the importance of environmental factors that can impact gene regulation by leaving marks on the epigenome. Drawing upon findings from an ethnographic study carried out in two epigenetic research laboratories in the United Kingdom, I explore the notion of environment as a vehicle that enables teams to do what they do. I show that specific articulations of the environment in epigenetics facilitate research entrepreneurship. That is, specific understandings of the environment are mobilised by scientists to connect with other teams and build research collaborations. Drawing upon Stephen Hilgartner’s notion of knowledge-control regimes, I discuss how the labs engage with a series of actors and form collaborations in order to construct epigenetics knowledge, while analysing how the labs organise the travelling of assets, such as data, expertise or technologies, outside of the laboratories’ borders. This leads me to examine the governance regimes put into place by the labs to remain in control of their assets and argue that what is at stake is the maintenance of proprietary control over knowledge.

Clémence Pinel is a social scientist of bioscience and biomedicine. Her main research interest lies in the ways scientific knowledge is produced, exploring the cultural, historical and social contexts surrounding knowledge production. She is currently undertaking a PhD in the School of Population Sciences and Environmental Sciences at King’s College London, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Clémence’s PhD is a social science study of epigenetics research. She uses ethnography to better understand epigenetics research in the making. The overall aim is to examine how the notion of environment is conceptualised and enacted in epigenetics.

This event is sponsored by the EpiDaPo Laboratory, a collaboration of UCLA and CNRS,
and the Insitute for Society and Genetics

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Los Angeles, 3314 Life Sciences Building

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