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272 Book Reviews Down’s Syndrome Screening and Reproductive Politics is based on the author’s dissertation research, and it reads much like a dissertation at times. Some back- ground information on Down’s syndrome is repeated several times in the text, and there is no compelling rationale for the lengthy history chapter, which is not well integrated into the larger ethnography. Nevertheless, the book is ethnographi- cally rich, concise, and clearly written. It will hold considerable appeal for students and scholars in medical sociology, genetics and society, and related ﬁelds. Mara Buchbinder Department of Social Medicine, UNC, Chapel Hill firstname.lastname@example.org # 2017, Mara Buchbinder https://doi.org/10.1080/14636778.2017.1368375 Investigating interdisciplinary collaboration: theory and practice across disci- plines, edited by Scott Frickel, Mathieu Albert and Barbara Prainsack, New Bruns- wick, New Jersey and London, Rutgers University Press, 2016, 256 pp., £27.95 (paperback), ISBN (Electronic) 978081358590, ISBN (Print) 9780813585888 The editors of Investigating Interdisciplinary Collaboration contribute to an admit- tedly rather bloated literature on interdisciplinarity by showcasing empirically rig- orous examinations of the academic and social value of such research. In a useful introduction, they argue that the literature is dominated by “celebratory” accounts of interdisciplinary research (IDR) but that its advocates have failed to provide sub- stantive empirical justiﬁcation. Often lauded by governments, research funders and education institutions, IDR has – as the editors put it – become a “panacea for the myriad problems facing our societies and our planet” (5) The book implicitly aims to burst the bubble of such hype by challenging three important assumptions existing literature makes in its accounts of IDR programs, teams, projects and courses. As they develop their case, the editors show how each assumption links to a related empirical failure: The literature assumes that interdisciplinary knowledge is better than disciplinary research but provides too few comparative studies which would support this claim; The literature presumes that disciplines constrain knowledge production but lacks thorough exploration of the ways in which IDR might also constrain knowl- edge production; IDR is assumed to be immune to power and social hierarchies which shape disci- plinary knowledge production. However, there is scarce research investigating how such power relations are attenuated through interdisciplinary projects and very few which examine the (alternative) structures and hierarchies that shape IDR teams. New Genetics and Society 273 In this review, we have selected one chapter from each of the book’s three sec- tions in order to give a sense of the approaches and arguments developed. The ﬁrst section of the book contains four chapters focusing on careers and cultures using a range of methodological and conceptual approaches. The chapter by Downey et al. charts the evolution of a stem cell science research center: the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Beginning with a press conference in 2004, the authors narrate the considerations made in designing the building, including the commonplace conceit that idea exchange can be promoted with planned spaces for accidental “col- lisions” between occupants. After the new building was populated there were various “frictions” between different occupant groups. Deploying familiar Science and Technology Studies concepts of multiplicity and hybridity, Downey et al. compellingly describe three institutes contained in the single building that are materially, organizationally, intellectually and ﬁnancially hybrid (though this last point is deferred to another paper). The authors ﬁnd IDR to be continually redeﬁned and redeployed, which makes IDR something that cannot be understood, they argue, simply in terms of success and failure. The chapter highlights some contingent factors affecting the ways IDR is institutionalized and enacted in a speciﬁc location and over a speciﬁc time period. On this account, interdisciplinar- ity is best understood as being enacted in projects in situated ways, rather than as a homogenous form. Aaron Panofsky offers an interesting and openly skeptical account of interdisci- plinarity in Chapter 5. He explores some of its darkest sides and calls for a less naı¨ve perspective on its potential beneﬁts. Aligned with the assumptions that the book aims to examine, Panofsky highlights three main limitations of disciplinary ﬁelds: fragmentation of communication; repetition in knowledge production; and a lack of openness when debating assumptions, to argue that interdisciplinary work is not immune to them. To exemplify his argument, he draws on the case of behavior genetics as a ﬁeld in the Bourdieusian sense – that is, a ﬁeld concomi- tantly shaped by “forces” and “struggles.” He depicts the history of the ﬁeld to show how behavior genetics’ past was situated within a controversy regarding its links to racism and eugenics in the wake of World War II, and how this tainted past was instrumental in shaping understandings and practical arrangements of interdisciplinarity within the ﬁeld. Panofsky does a great job in engaging with the fascinating history and the politics of behavior genetics, demonstrating how the ﬁeld evolved through various forces and struggles. Interestingly, what he also ends up showing through interviews with “behavior geneticists” is that after many scientiﬁc and public backlashes, behavior genetics became so fragmented that only a small part of its original community actually “resisted” and continued to feel comfortable in being described as members of the ﬁeld. It was those with a background in psychology who maintained the label, and today it is this discipline that dominates knowledge production in behavior genetics (or contributes to its stagnation, as the author suggests). Panofsky successfully evidences his point that behavior genetics suffers from all the limitations mentioned above, but it 274 Book Reviews leaves the reader wanting more in terms of a conceptual discussion. It is a case that could help us to better understand how to interpret and challenge the claims that IDR is value neutral and immune to power relations. Cyrus Mody’s argument in Chapter 8 proves an intriguing case for the editor’s aims by taking a historical look at changes in the disciplinary structures at Stanford University during the 1960s and 1970s. First, he shows that an early attempt to restructure the disciplines at Stanford under the leadership of the “legendary post- war provost, Fred Terman” (174), proved to be more constraining than enlivening. Terman struck a chord in pushing for physics-informed natural sciences and engin- eering, but missed the broader movement of applied research leaving Stanford a little behind when it came to helping to solve the pressing problems of the era (mass trans- portation, over-population, pollution, and so on). Second, Mody shows that, contrary to its assumed political immunity, the IDR done at Stanford was not value neutral and resulted in signiﬁcant public contestation. This is best exempliﬁed in his description of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), which beneﬁtted from Cold War funding for applied national security-oriented projects. People welcomed the interdisciplinary methods of SRI but there were large protests against the Institute’s experiments with chemical and biological warfare agents. By the 1960s Stanford had founded new interdisciplinary centers, with anchors in the social sciences and humanities, and others in the sciences and engineering, addressed directly to public policy and practical problems. But not everyone was enamored with the drive for IDR, making it difﬁcult even for prominent ID researchers to establish tenure. Taking the reader through this history, Mody’s chapter provides an interesting account of shifting institutional commitments, responses to national funding trends, the effects of anxieties and crises in the Cold War, and individual researchers’ struggles to compete in the changing market of higher education. This collection succeeds in one of its central aims: to provide empirically grounded studies to complement the existing IDR studies literature. Throughout the volume IDR is connected to other contingencies, and the authors consistently draw attention to many variations and differences in how IDR is enacted. There is a range of methodological approaches and, true to the empirical aims of the book, the more exciting accounts employ an ethnographic or historical approach. The book succeeds less well in developing theoretical aspects of IDR. There are some notable exceptions, however. One of the edition’s more signiﬁcant conceptu- alizations, Prainsack and Riesch’s chapter in Part 3, suggests that IDR serves as a kind of “redemptive fantasy,” which allows established hierarchies to be main- tained whilst also providing a pacifying dream for a future in which those hierar- chies are dissolved and global problems are solved. Further conceptual development of such empirical cases would be a useful, timely extension to the work begun in this book. Most of these chapters will be of interest to researchers conducting critical studies of IDR, scholars and administrators engaging in IDR and those creating policies for future research and education programs. The variety of cases proves the most rewarding feature and this alone is good enough New Genetics and Society 275 reason to purchase a copy. But readers will also be rewarded with some lively stories and a few new concepts to adopt and adapt to their own cases. Robert Meckin Department of Sociology, University of Manchester SYNBIOCHEM, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester Barbara Ribeiro Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester SYNBIOCHEM, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester Andrew Balmer Department of Sociology, University of Manchester SYNBIOCHEM, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester email@example.com # 2017, Robert Meckin https://doi.org/10.1080/14636778.2017.1368376 Data-centric biology: a philosophical study, by Sabina Leonelli, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2016, 288 pp., £24.50 (paperback), ISBN: 9780226416472 With the rise of “big data,” we are seeing an increase in data-centrism across many ﬁelds of human endeavor, including the life sciences. How should we make sense of these developments? And how should we understand them philosophically? Sabina Leonelli’s book Data-centric biology is the ﬁrst to grapple seriously with these questions. It challenges us to think in new ways not only about data and biology but also about philosophy. Leonelli deﬁnes data-centrism as “a particular model of attention within research, within which concerns around data handling take precedence over theor- etical questions” (178). This requires an answer to the question “what counts as data?” and Leonelli gives a two-fold one: data are objects that “(1) are treated as potential evidence for one or more claims about phenomena, and (2) are formatted and handled in ways that enable their circulation among individuals or groups for the purpose of analysis” (78). It is the second part of this deﬁnition that I ﬁnd par- ticularly striking: part of the deﬁnition of data is precisely its portability. In fact, we are told that rather than having “intrinsic representational powers,” data “acquire evidential value through mobilisation” (198). Since portability is so important to Leonelli’s understanding of data, the book focuses much of its attention on making data travel – what she calls “data
New Genetics & Society – Taylor & Francis
Published: Jul 3, 2018
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