Open Access

Genomics in the UK: Mapping the Social Science Landscape

  • Michael Banner and
  • Jonathan E Suk
Genomics, Society and Policy20062:1

DOI: 10.1186/1746-5354-2-2-27

Published: 15 August 2006


This paper has been prepared from the perspective of the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum, which has the particular mandate of linking social science research on genomics with ongoing public and policy debates. It is intended as a contribution to discussions about the future agenda for social scientific analyses of genomics. Given its scope, this paper is necessarily painted with a broad brush. It is presented in the hope that it can serve both as a useful reference for those less familiar with the themes and foci of UK-based social science research about genomics and, for those more engaged in the field, as a foundation for discussions about the future social sciences agenda in this area. This paper has four parts. The first identifies the boundaries of the topic. It is suggested that the boundaries of genomics are properly regarded by social scientists as soft rather than hard, and as encompassing far more than genomics as narrowly understood. In the second part, the UK context for social science research is briefly described before proceeding to part three, which offers a survey of the major areas and patterns of research. This is organised by reference to the themes of globalisation, governance and regulation, and refers to 129 current or recently completed projects (surveyed during the winter of 2005) that address these themes. Part four proposes some appropriate areas for future research, drawing on and advancing what has been achieved thus far. Social scientific analyses of the nature and consequences of genomic science, it is claimed, have been crucially framed by the institutionalising of non-scientific considerations under the heading of ELSA/ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects/Implications). It is suggested that an understanding of the limitations and consequences of this framing provides a vital starting point in considering future research agendas.