Aligning life-science technology promises and societal expectations

Platform technologies and expectation management

RESEARCH QUESTIONS 

  1. On the one hand, new major investments in platform technologies are called for. On the other hand, is seems inevitable to address the issue how to integrate the data that will be produced by this next generation of platform technologies. Is it for example possible to transcend the current dichotomy between monogenetic and multifactorial disease models in order to develop targeted research endeavours on common degenerative diseases involving a limited number of genetic risk factors?
  2. Is it possible to define promising trajectories in such a way that major investments in research infrastructure can be combined with targeted research programmes devoted to addressing issues that are regarded as important and pressing issues by society?
  3. Whereas the pace of technoscientific development and the complexity of deliberations over methodology and funding strategies are highly complex, it seems increasingly difficult to realise up-stream involvement of broader audiences of potential stakeholders in processes of agenda setting. How to develop feasible communication strategies to address this?

Duration: April 2011 - present. 

SUMMARY

“It is possible that our children’s children will only know cancer as a constellation of stars”. 

This quote from former president of the United States Bill Clinton is typical for the many promises and expectations that have come with genomics research, especially within the field of health care. This resulted in financing for the development and continuation of large scale research projects. So far, groundbreaking applications in health care practice are absent. Researchers blame the enormous amount of data and the complexity of living organisms. But, looking, back, could we not also doubt the expectations promises that were made? 

In light of the disappointment with genomics, it is a daunting task to convince policy makers to make large scale investments in life sciences again. That's why scientists emphasize what they do have realized and formulate new promises about applications that may be realized in the future. Platform technologies as systems biology are extra vulnerable, because their goals are abstract and their list of promises contains the well-known 'evergreens' that we've seen many times. This project therefore focuses on the question how scientific and societal agendas can be better aligned. 

With this study, Ruivenkamp en Zwart want to show how societal relevance of, and support to genomics research can increase, while scientists are enabled to formulate feasible promises about applications of their research. Ruivenkamp uses interviews and questionnaires, workshops and case studies to do so.