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Accomplishing sequencing the human genome

By Andrew Bartlett


Modern biotechnology has been transformed from a largely academic pursuit to a multi billion-dollar commercial bio-industry that is seen as one of the foundations of the knowledge economy. The sequencing of the human genome is seen as one of the great achievements of contemporary science. Though narratives of the sequencing of the human genome concentrate on the leading figures, the Human Genome Project was the achievement of big science. Big science represents the transformation of scientific work from a craft-based adhocracy into a form of work conducted within bureaucratic organisations that employ huge teams of scientists and technicians with a proliferation of specialised roles. This 'industrialisation' of science led many to describe the Human Genome Project as involving 'production line' efforts, 'sequencing mills' and an 'Industrial Revolution' for biology. This thesis investigates the experience of work at the Institute, a large-scale sequencing centre. Entering the 'hidden abode' of production, the study examines the sequence of the human genome as an achievement of labour, rather than the product of 'great men'. Interviews were conducted with a range of people across the 'sequencing chain of production'. The study finds that work at the Institute was quite unlike the dehumanising, alienating work that might be expected as a result of the 'industrialisation' of science. Rather, the work of sequencing genomes recruited the sentiments of those working at the Institute, producing committed workers. This thesis examines the generation of commitment at the Institute in comparison to 'high road' models of work organisation. Given the central role of the sequence of the human genome in the future of biotechnology as a key sector in the knowledge economy, the Institute is considered with regard to debates around the future of work in technologically advanced economies

Topics: HM Sociology, QH426 Genetics
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:
Provided by: ORCA
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