Seminar: Dr Jane Calvert, "Ownership and sharing in synthetic biology: a 'diverse ecology' of the open and the proprietary?"

Past Event

28 February 2012, 5:00pm - 6:30pm


This seminar is hosted by the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society

Speaker: Dr Jane Calvert, RCUK Academic Fellow, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Venue: Seminar Room, 64 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PN

Summary: Synthetic biology is in the process of inventing itself and its ownership regimes. There are currently two dominant approaches to ownership and sharing in the field. The work of the J. Craig Venter Institute is grounded in molecular biology and in gene patenting.

Parts-based approaches to synthetic biology, in contrast, are inspired by engineering, open source software and distributed innovation, and they are building new communities to help further this agenda. Despite these differences, the two approaches make very similar use of informational and computational metaphors. They both also have a place in a vision for the future of synthetic biology as a ‘diverse ecology’ of the open and the proprietary. It remains to be seen whether such a diverse ecology will be sustainable, whether synthetic biology will go down the patenting route taken by previous biotechnologies, or whether novel forms of ownership and sharing will emerge. Which path is taken will depend on the success of synthetic biology in achieving both its technical objectives and its social innovations.

Biography: Jane Calvert is an RCUK Academic Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, based in the ESRC Innogen Centre. Her broad area of research is the sociology of the life sciences. She is currently studying the emergence and development of both systems biology and synthetic biology. She is particularly interested in the role of social scientists in emerging technoscientific fields, attempts to make biology into and engineering discipline, intellectual property and open source, and design and aesthetics in synthetic