The inventions of DNA cloning and sequencing technique have not only brought about a revolution in biology itself, but also made it possible for biotechnology to be the next wave of global capitalism. In order to offer a view of transnational genomics from the perspective of a developing country, this Science and Technology Studies dissertation research project focuses on the development of a genome center, the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in China. The research design contains two stages of study. The first stage, which focuses on the institutional and national level, has been completed and has based on 10 months of fieldwork conducted at BGI in 2002. The second stage, for which this funding supports, focuses on the international level and will include a follow-up visit to BGI, archival research, attendance at an international genomics conferences, and visits to several genome centers in the United Kingdom and in the United States. BGI, like other genome centers, is a nexus of this biological revolution. BGI is particularly significant because it does not follow the norm of government-planned science in China, and it has served as an impetus for a new linkage among government, academe, and industry. In order to participate in the Human Genome Project, BGI was set up by several overseas Chinese scientists returning from abroad rather than by the Chinese government. The first stage of study has yielded several important findings about the structure of BGI. The second stage of research will address the following comparative questions to link the local and the international contexts: What are the factors that prompted the international consortium to allow BGI.s participation? How can we account for the differences between BGI and the Western genome centers, given that China is a developing country and has a norm of government-planned science? What are the roles of genome centers in terms of production of knowledge, production of scientific culture, and production of concepts of genes and diseases? By focusing on the innovative structure of BGI, this project will provide new understanding of post-socialist China. China's development of biotechnology provides an opportunity to understand modernity and science in a developing country. By contextualizing the cultural and social logic within the development of biotechnology in China, this work will facilitate further comparative studies of science in different societies. In addition, this study will help to understand the nature and consequences of the production of biomedical knowledge on a global scale, and what the global scale of Research & Development means for a technologically developing country and its scientists.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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John P. Perhonis
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Harvard University
United States
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