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Putting social science at the heart of biotech debates
The Innogen Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics, based at the University of Edinburgh and the Open University, was set up in 2002 with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. Our aims were twofold: to enable social scientists to take a leading role in policy, public and innovation-related debates about the life sciences; and to help shape life-science innovation from a well- informed, evidence-based position.
We wanted to bring solutions to people creating innovative biotechnologies, rather than merely criticise them. This required researchers able to work across disciplines; between the social and natural sciences.
Many academics doubted we could manage such complexity. From the beginning, we were under pressure from research evaluators to narrow our focus. We resisted, and it paid off. In its first decade, the centre produced work of an unusually high degree of interdisciplinarity, and an exceptional degree of cross-citation, compared with less wide-ranging organisations.