Controlling new knowledge: Genomic science, governance and the politics of bioinformatics

Brian Salter, Charlotte Salter

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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The rise of bioinformatics is a direct response to the political difficulties faced by genomics in its quest to be a new biomedical innovation, its value being that it acts as the bridge between the promise of genomics and its realization in the form of health benefits. Western scientific elites are able to use their close relationship with the state to control and facilitate the emergence of new domains compatible with the existing distribution of epistemic power – all within the embrace of public trust. The incorporation of bioinformatics as the saviour of genomics had to be integrated with the operation of two key aspects of governance in this field: the definition and ownership of the new knowledge. This was achieved mainly by the development of common standards and by the promotion of the values of communality, open access and the public ownership of data to legitimize and maintain the governance power of publicly funded genomic science. Opposition from industry advocating the private ownership of knowledge has been largely neutered through the institutions supporting the science-state concordat. However, in order for translation into health benefit to occur and public trust to be assured, genomic and clinical data have to be integrated and knowledge ownership agreed across the separate and distinct governance territories of scientist, clinical medicine and society. Tensions abound as science seeks ways of maintaining its control of knowledge production through the negotiation of new forms of governance with the institutions and values of clinicians and patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-287
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Issue number2
Early online date5 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • bioinformatics
  • genomics
  • governance
  • ideology
  • politics

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