Social dimension of bio-nano interactions
Signature Project

Project Leader

Associate Professor Matthew Kearnes


The Project

Bio-nano technologies, together with advances in precision and personalised medicine, are likely to profoundly change health care practices. By exploring the social dimensions of research across this area of work, in collaboration with key CBNS research initiatives, this programme will provide insights into the societal dimensions of predictive bio-nano technologies. This project seeks to address key questions related to the intersection between big data, healthcare, personalised and precision medicines, and regulation.
The proposed programme of work will entail the use of the following social science methodologies, and will be facilitated by a range of cross-node collaborations.

These methods include:

  1. Social Media Monitoring and analysis tools (using tools such as NodeXL) will enable tissue mapping of the institutional and discursive shaping of research agendas in precision, and personalised medicine;
  2. Ethnographic Observation: close analysis of science-inpractice will serve to document the imagined social worlds that underpin developments in bio-nanotechnology, focusing specially on CBNS research projects;
  3. Interdisciplinary Exchange Workshops will bring CBNS researchers into conversations with researchers working in the social sciences, humanities and law to explore the broader social dimensions of their work;
  4. Targeted Public Engagement Initiatives will also form part of the work plan of the programme, enabling CoE researchers to address the societal dimensions of their research in appropriately designed and facilitated public forums.


The Big Question

How can we understand the social dimensions of personalised and precision medicine, at the interface between bio-and nano-technology? Social science methodologies have often struggled to keep pace with new and emerging technologies – and have largely separated social questions from processes of technology development. This programme is designed to document the ‘imagined social worlds’ that underpin research in precision and personalised medicine, particularly in areas such as bio-nano sensor technologies, targeted cancer therapies and vaccines. We will also explore how advances in precision medicine rely upon advances in computational models and tools, development of large-scale health databases, and patient characterisation methodologies. We seek to uncover how research across these fields may precipitate new social practices.


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