The social study of science and medicine is a rapidly growing area in Australia and around the world. As the life sciences increasingly play a central role in contemporary societies, debates are emerging on how the biosciences are redefining society, politics, and legalities, including:
We explore these profound debates in the social study of science. Our aim is to bring researchers together to promote dialogue and collaboration and to give a greater profile to the field.
Promoting dialogue and collaboration
We run an extensive series of high-profile activities, including:
For a detailed list of upcoming events, please visit the University's What's On Calendar.
Speaker: Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University
STS has set itself up to be the critical field that puts the social production of science and technology under its lens, much as sociology studies society, anthropology studies culture, or political science studies politics. Yet, when “studying up,” with two of humankind’s most powerful instruments in its sights, STS runs the risk of capture, of fetishizing and celebrating the very analytic objects it seeks to critique.
In this talk, Sheila Jasanoff will trace an arc from the attacks on scientific self-regulation of the 1970s to today’s seemingly greater acceptance of locating ethical responsibility within—not outside—the centers of innovation.
Sheila will reflect on ways in which the co-productionist framework enables a wider understanding of the scope and purposes of STS critique.
Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. A pioneer in the social sciences, she explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Her books include The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, The Ethics of Invention, and Can Science Make Sense of Life? She founded and directs the STS Program at Harvard, where she also formed the Science and Democracy Network; previously, she was founding chair of the STS Department at Cornell.
In 2022, she received the Government of Norway’s Holberg Prize for law, humanities, and social sciences. Her other honors include the SSRC’s Hirschman prize, the Humboldt Foundation’s Reimar-Lüst award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Jasanoff has held distinguished visiting professorships at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, foreign member of the British Academy and the Royal Danish Academy, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
She served on the AAAS Board of Directors and as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and honorary doctorates from the Universities of Twente and Liège.
This book criticall examines the COVID-19 pandemic and its legal and biological governance using a multidisciplinary approach. The perspectives reflected in this volume investigate the imbrications between technosphere and biosphere at social, economic, and political levels.
The biological dimensions of our eveolving understanding of "home" are analysed as the common thread linking the problem of zoonotic diseases and planetary health with that of geopolitics, biosecurity, bioeconomics and biophilosphies of the plant-animal-human interface.
In doing so, the contributions collectively highlight the complexities, challenges, and opportunities for humanity, opening new perspectives on how to inhabit our shared planet.
LABTALK is an interdisciplinary reading group of scholars, activists, scientists, and creatives, dedicated to critical engagements with technoscientific knowledge. During our two-hour long sessions, we will examine a range of key texts in STS scholarship – tracing out notable developments in expertise, classification, scientific methods, and institutional norms.
25 March - Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships by Brian Earp & Julian Savulescu. 2020
30 April - Thinking with Soils: Material Politics and Social Theory by Juan Salazar et al. 2020
27 May - The War Against Animals by Dinesh Wadiwel. 2015*
25 June - An Ecology of Knowledges: Fear, Love, and Technoscience in Guatemalan Forest Conservation by Micha Rahder. 2020
26 August - Bio politics of the More-Than-Human: Forensic Ecologies of Violence by Joseph Pugliese. 2020
24 September - Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above by Caren Kaplan. 2018
28 October - Pollution is Colonialism by Max Liboiron. 2021 *
26 November - Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima by Aya Kimura. 2017
In times of shutdowns, cancelled events, and new routines of social distancing—we are much more in need of intimate intellectual exchange.
The BoS Labtalk reading group is therefore going online!
This year’s theme is called “Bodies and Entanglements” and you can find the schedule and more information here.
Wednesday 19 February 2020
Special event: The value(s) of precision medicine
Exploring how precision medicine, with its programmatic focus on individual patients, could– perhaps counterintuitively – shed light on the substantive meaning of value in healthcare. For more information, contact: Associate Professor Sonja van Wichelen
2019 Lab Talk Reading Group
When: Mondays from 4-6pm
Venue: Meeting Room 370, Social Sciences Building (A02)
Visit the official website of Lab Talk for more information.
Friday 1 November 2019
We witness in the 21st century a backlash against global cosmopolitanism, cynicism about the efficacy of human rights, and a heightened interest in the project of national identities. How to understand these developments in a global and comparative perspective? What kind of conceptual tools are needed to understand the complexities and stakes involved? This symposium explores post-colonial biopolitics in an era of post-globalisation and new nationalisms.
13 June 2019
Professor Catherine Waldby, Director of the Research School of Social Sciences, at the Australian National University will be presenting from her new book The Oocyte Economy: The Changing Meaning of Human Eggs which was just published with Duke University Press. In recent years increasing numbers of women from wealthy countries have turned to egg donation, egg freezing, and in vitro fertilization to become pregnant, especially later in life. This trend has created new ways of using, exchanging, and understanding oocytes—the reproductive cells specific to women. In The Oocyte Economy Catherine Waldby draws on 130 interviews — with scientists, clinicians, and women who have either donated or frozen their oocytes or received those of another woman —to trace how the history of human oocytes’ perceived value intersects with the biological and social life of women.
16 April 2019
Anne Pollock, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College, London, will be presenting her latest book Synthesizing Hope: Matter, Knowledge, and Place in South African Drug Discovery.
By analyseing iThemba Pharmaceuticals, a startup company in South African, from material and social perspectives, Professor Pollock explores how the location of scientific knowledge production matters in different ways, and challenges the limitations of the current global health frameworks.
23 November 2018
Microbiome research, the study of microbial communities in host organisms, is claimed to be ‘revolutionary’ science. But how true is this? In this masterclass, leading scholars in the field will review the research in human microbiome and examine its influences in human health, professional and social media.
27 August 2018 to 13 September 2018
Biolegality Pop-Up Research Lab
The Biopolitics of Science Research Network has been awarded funding for a Pop-Up Research Lab by Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC). Explore the emerging issues in biolegality through a series of workshops, seminars, masterclasses and roundtables: