C u r r e n t  P R O J E C T S
 
Bio-objects and their Boundaries: Governing Matters at the Intersection of
Society, Politics and Science
Europe seeks to become the most dynamic knowledge-based economy of the globe. The production and circulation of bio-objects, such as stem cells, chimera, tissue samples or genetically modified organisms, play a key part in this endeavour. This COST Action seeks to develop novel interdisciplinary tools in order to enhance our understanding of bio-objects, their production and circulation in time and in space, and their governance. The core questions that this Action seeks to answer are:
• how are the boundaries between human and animal, organic and non-organic, living and the non-living opened up?
• how does the governance of bio-objects play out at different levels, from the level of the European Union and its Member States to the subpolitical level, and finally in clinics and laboratories?
• how do bio-objects change social relations?
The Action will bring together a group of young scholars across a range of disciplines in collaboration with more experienced researchers, including those from the bioscience community. It will develop models of the bio-objectification process, the policy challenges and political and social resources needed to address this, and how both will play a key role in delivering the knowledge-based economy sought in the Lisbon Agenda.
This Action is funded by COST (European Co-operations in Science and Technology). It has started in December 2010 and is scheduled to run until December 2014.
BIOBANKS AND THEIR PUBLICS
  In this project we look at the public perception of biobanks. The development of larger biobank projects such as in the UK and Iceland has been a socially and politically much debated process, and there is a growing body of social science literature about these projects. However, there are only a few studies that shed light on the relationship between different national publics and biobanks, how different publics perceive biobanks, and which issues are identified as important by various stake-holders. And nothing is known about the relationship between biobank projects, their increasingly transnational ramifications, and the public perception of the transnationalization of biobank research. While it is relatively clear how to engage citizens in debates and exchanges about national or regional biobank projects, these questions remain to be answered for projects involving multi-actor/multi-country cooperations.
 Starting in 2009, until 2011 we conducted comparative qualitative and quantitative research in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The research team is composed of Herbert Gottweis, Jacqueline Broerse, Ursula Gottweis, Abbi Hobbs, Maria Pashou, Karoliina Snell, Johannes Starkbaum, Alexandra Soulier, Sally Stares, and Reinout van Koten.
  Financial support for the research has come from the Biobanking and Biomolecular Ressources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI) project, supported under the European Union 7th Framework Programme for Science and Technological Development, and the GEN-AU (Austrian Genome Research) project Genome Austria Tissue Bank (GATiB).
  A number of publications on the different countries studied and under a comparative perspective are in preparation.
Privacy Regimes: Variations and Transformations in an age of (post-) Genomics
Increasing amounts of bioinformation are collected, stored, and subsequently disseminated and used in collaborative life-science research environments. Exceptionally large amounts of potentially sensitive data that are collected and stored in biobanks that are therefore key insertion points for our study of privacy-related issues in an age of (post-) genomics.

“Privat Gen” investigates the existing privacy regimes - which encompass statutory regulation (both national and international), self-regulation, and technology-based privacy instruments - in relation to (post-) genomic research in general and more specifically in relation to the creation of large-scale life science infrastructures in Austria, Finland, and Germany. Each national case will be first studied from a different disciplinary angle by the consortium’s four subprojects (juridical, ethical, sociological, and political science) and subsequently integrated into a coherent governance framework.

 
Furthermore, the privacy related complexity of these endeavours is amplified by increasing scientific collaborations that operate on a transnational scale. Private Gen’s selection of case studies reflects this trend, since the cases under investigation play an important role in an effort to create the pan-European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI). They are therefore excellent locations to study particular dynamics of privacy regimes that occur on a transnational scale.
Genome Austria Tissue Bank (GATiB III)
 
In GEN-AU III liegt der Schwerpunkt des Biobanken-Projekts auf der Sammlung von Proben und Daten sowie der internationalen Integration.
Das Subprojekt fünf von GATiB III (From GATiB to BBMRI: Biobank Projects and Their Publics), finanziert durch das GEN-AU-Förderprogramm (Österreichisches Genome Projekt: Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung, BMWF) und unterstützt durch BBMRI (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure), mit einer Laufzeit vom 01.10.2009 bis zum 30.04.2012, beschäftigt sich mit der internationalen Integration von Biobanken. Mittels Fokusgruppen werden öffentliche Einstellungen zu zentralen Themen im Bereich Biobanken und deren internationale Vernetzung, in unterschiedlichen Ländern (Österreich, Frankreich, Niederlande, Deutschland, Griechenland und Großbritannien), erarbeitet. Die Methoden (Fokusgruppenforschung und computergestützte Datenanalyse) werden im Sommersemester 2010 im Rahmen der Lehrveranstaltung „Angewandte Fokusgruppenforschung“ (Master Methodencurriculum) an Studierende weitergegeben.
Biomarkers: Towards the Governance of an emerging medical Technology
This project studies the governance of biomarkers, a newly emerging genomics-based medical technology. We study the complex and difficult process of biomarkers moving from early scientific development stages to industrial development and medical application. Our focus is on analyzing the complex ordering of the relationship between scientific-technological processes and developments, the medical-clinical system, industry, society, and political regulation in the field of biomarkers. The successful introduction and application of biomarkers, we argue, depends on the interaction, coordination, and management of a large set of variables. We call this coordination and management process biomarker governance. Just as biomarkers are an emerging bio-medical technology, their governance is emerging, still open, and in many respects experimental. The project is funded by the ELSA-GEN-AU Programme of the Austrian Ministry for Science and Research. The planned project duration is from October 2009 to May 2012.
DNA and immigration: Social, political, and ethical implications of DNA analysis for family reunification ('Immigene'),

The project aims at exploring the social, political and ethical implications of DNA analysis for family reunification in three European countries - Austria, Finland, and Germany. The general objective of the project is to reconstruct the historical process and the institutional logics of DNA analysis in a comparative and philosophically informed perspective. The project consists of a consortium of four member institutions, related to four subprojects – three country case studies and a philosophical subproject.

Subproject Philosophy:
Martin Weiss and Jacob Guggenheimer, University of Klagenfurt (please visit their poster at this conference)
Subproject Austria: Ursula Naue, University of Vienna
Subproject Finland: Ilpo Helén and Anna-Maria Tapaninen , University of Helsinki
Subproject Germany: Thomas Lemke (project coordinator) and Torsten Heinemann, Frankfurt University

The three country case studies exemplify different approaches towards the issue of DNA analysis in the context of family reunification. Comparing these three trajectories to regulate family reunification will improve our understanding of the historical and institutional dynamics.

The project has six main objectives. It will: · analyse the current legal framework and the ethical, societal and political implications of using DNA analysis for immigration purposes · develop a general understanding of how DNA analysis is affecting the formulation of immigration policies and politics · identify emerging cross-national patterns of the use of DNA analysis for immigration purposes · examine different ways of using genetic testing for immigration purposes in national contexts and make it possible to understand the implications for society and politics · evaluate immigration DNA analysis against the background of a changing understanding of the concept of ‘family’ · provide knowledge and recommendations for policymaking and for how the ethical, legal, societal and political issues in this area should be addressed in immigration policies.

Fur further and more detailed information please visit www.immigene.eu

2012-02-07