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Closing the 'regulator's regress': making things work in stem cell laboratories

Stephens, Neil James 2008. Closing the 'regulator's regress': making things work in stem cell laboratories. Presented at: Society for the Social Studies of Science conference, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 20 - 23 August 2008.

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In this paper we develop the concept of the ‘Regulator’s Regress’ as a mechanism for relating regulation as document to regulation as practice. In doing we make visible the contingent interpretation of these documents in the local setting, and consider what this means for our understanding of the governance of modern bioscience. We frame our argument within a rich empirical setting drawing upon three and a half years of ethnographic work conducted at the UK Stem Cell Bank and a subsequent project following the International Stem Cell Banking Initiative. Both projects chart the development of innovative institutions and networks in cutting edge science. These environments are typified by the codevelopment and reciprocity of innovative science and new regulatory agencies, or ‘institutional biosociality’ (Brown & Michael 2004). In such settings this formation of regulation as lived practice is a day-to-day pursuit for the staff and their associates. Through this empirical focus we develop Collins’s (1985) concept of the ‘experimenter’s regress’ and Jordan and Lynch’s concept of the ‘procedural regress’ to address the literature on the regulation of contemporary bioscience. Doing so is beneficial for two reasons. Firstly it provides a language for discussing the local negotiation and interpretation of regulatory scripts. Secondly it makes the collocation of regulatory autonomy explicit: both those who produce regulatory documents, and those who use, interpret and implement them, have substantive input into shaping regulatory action in practice. The paper discusses how this inter-relationship affects the everyday work in laboratory settings, and how the everyday work in laboratory settings affects regulation.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
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Last Modified: 23 Mar 2017 03:10

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