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Genes and culture: A comparative exploration of Russian, UK and US geneticists discourse on knowledge and science

Egorova, Y. and Latimer, Joanna Elizabeth 2008. Genes and culture: A comparative exploration of Russian, UK and US geneticists discourse on knowledge and science. Presented at: EASST/4S Annual Conference, Rotterdam, Netherlands, August 2008.

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Recently the question of the impact of socio-cultural factors on the epistemology of science has become one of the central issues in the social studies of science. Most scientists involved in this debate have been defending the special status of scientific knowledge as being the best ‘way of knowing’ the objectivity of the material world and admitting the possibility of culture affecting science only to a limited degree. How wide spread are such views among ‘regular’ scientists? This paper is based on interviews with genetic scientists and medical geneticists from the UK, Russia and the USA. The interviewees were invited to reflect on the effect of cultural and societal factors on genetics in general and on their work in particular, drawing on their experience of working in different countries. Their responses will be considered in the light of the suggestion made by science studies scholars that scientists tend to relegate the social aspects of their work to what Kerr et al. have termed the ‘macro realm’, or the realm of political and economic issues which determine what projects receive funding, how the outcomes of basic research are applied and what ethical issues they raise, and to argue that culture and society have practically no impact on the ‘micro-empirical realm’ of day-to-day laboratory work. It will be demonstrated that the geneticists’ responses far from being monolithic in terms of the perspectives on the epistemological effect of culture on science that they reflect, contain a wide range of attitudes on the issue and can best be understood in the context of the history of genetics in the countries where the respondents are based and in the context of their personal life histories and experiences working in different cultural environments.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > Q Science (General)
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Last Modified: 25 Oct 2016 02:14

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