Giordano, Sara. 2018. “New Democratic Sciences, Ethics, and Proper Publics.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 43 (3): 401–30.


Abstract: "In this article, I examine the rhetoric of democratic science within the field of synthetic biology. The still emerging field of synthetic biology claims to be a new kind of science based on the promises of affordable medicines, environmental bioremediation, and democratic, do-it-yourself (DIY) science practices. I argue that the formation of a more democratic, DIY portion of this field represents an intervention into ethics debates by becoming “the proper informed public.” Through an analysis of twelve DIY and community-based synthetic biology organizations’ websites, I found that democratic science was presented as a novel, progressive approach to science that addresses ethical concerns and at the same time produces better scientific results. In part, these claims were made possible through a reconfiguring of the boundaries between Science and the Public where scientists lay claim to solidarity with the public at large in opposition to traditional biosciences and Big Bio. My research suggests that the superficial use of the language of rights and democracy relegitimizes the primacy of scientific discovery to solve societal problems. I further suggest that by becoming the proper informed public, ethical challenges from publics critical of genetic sciences may become delegitimized."


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Created date

May 31, 2018

Critical Commentary

AO: This 2018 article by Sara Giordano looks at the rhetoric of democracy and greater public access as observed in the field of synthetic biology. She asserts that this is superficial use of language and may have the effect of delegitimizing publics that are critical of genetic sciences. This is of relevance for my project in understanding how rhetoric of openess and "science for and with society" is being used to respond to critiques against "traditional sciences" and Big Science. What is and isn't changing under this new paradigm of open science?