Mutations in the research system? The Human Genome Mapping Project as science policy.
The way in which scientific research is conceived, organized and practiced in the context
of shifting policies and institutional structures is the main focus of this thesis. The
empirical component examines the development of the UK Human Genome Mapping
Project (HGMP), the British contribution to the international plan to locate all of the
genes in the human species. A comparative case-study examines the unsuccessful
attem pts by Australian scientists to establish a national genome mapping initiative. Two
main sets of research questions are posed. Why was the HGMP set up in the UK at the
end of the 1980s when, prima facie, a number of factors suggested that an organized
project would not be established? Allied to this question is the comparative one of how
and why a project was successfully established in the UK but not in Australia? The
second major question asks how policy subsequently developed for the UK programme:
what factors shaped policy-making, what aspects of science did the programme shape?
Drawing on recent developments in sociology of science and science policy studies, it is
argued that in both Australia and the UK debates over whether to have a genome
project, and the subsequent developments in UK policy towards the project, were not
straightforward administrative choices. In both countries, the question of what was the
best science to support was translated into debates over the best way to do science, what
scientific knowledge was for and even what was to count as worthwhile knowledge. The
implicit and explicit answers to those questions by various groups were embodied in
policies and policy recommendations. The thesis concludes that differing expectations
concerning the role of science had to be orchestrated together in order to mobilize, and
subsequently maintain, support for gene mapping and sequencing.