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Just around the corner: rhetorics of progress and promise in genetic research

Evans, Robert John, Kotchetkova, Inna and Langer, Susanne 2009. Just around the corner: rhetorics of progress and promise in genetic research. Public Understanding of Science 18 (1) , pp. 43-59. 10.1177/0963662507078016

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The emerging “diabetes epidemic” threatens to affect 366 million people worldwide by 2030. In the UK, almost 2 million people (about 3.9 percent of the population) are currently diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that a further 1 million people have the disease but do not realize it. The prevalence of diabetes, its complications and their effects on the lives of those living with diabetes mean that diabetes research has the potential to bring significant benefits. In this paper, we are concerned with the research involving human embryonic stem (HES) cells that sees diabetes as a potential therapeutic location. Drawing on the idea of the “certainty trough” we examine how the hopes and uncertainties associated with this complex research agenda are understood. We show that those at the research front and those most opposed to the research agenda appear to be the most aware of the uncertainties that need to be resolved. In contrast, funders, typically one-step removed from the research work, see the promise of the research as more real and more likely to be achieved. Significantly, these optimistic funders are supported in their beliefs by the research scientists as constitutive claims are reproduced within the contingent forum. The effect is a collaborative project in which the promise of a technical solution “just around the corner” is sustained whilst concerns about the future difficulties are marginalized. Because the science is so new, we are very hopeful that breakthroughs, particularly using cells in the pancreas for the treatment of diabetes, are on the horizon.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for the Study of Knowledge Expertise and Science (KES)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 0963-6625
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 04:17

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