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Walking the tightrope: expectations and standards in personal genomics

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date1/06/2013
JournalBioSocieties
Journal number2
Volume8
Number of pages24
Pages181-204
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The sociology of expectations has examined ways in which future expectations shape how technological options are selected and stabilised. Personal genomic susceptibility testing (PGST) is introduced as an example of a technology where expectations serve a crucial role, thanks to the inherently future-oriented nature of testing for genetic susceptibility to future health conditions. Nonetheless, expectations may increase rather than decrease scientific, regulatory and commercial uncertainties surrounding a technology. Technology promoters may therefore enact particular strategies to prove that technologies are not in need of stringent, technology-specific regulation. With the aid of an extensive historical analysis of company websites, together with semi-structured interviews with company representatives, it is shown how four PGST companies based in the United States have used efforts towards collaborative standardisation as ways of stabilising and legitimating PGST in an often hostile environment. We explore how these strategies make use of expectations, and how they centre on the promotion of new ‘regulatory objects’ in an effort to influence regulatory agendas. Although processes of standardisation in the PGST industry have stalled, we suggest that they nonetheless represent successful engagement with regulators, insofar as they have succeeded in shaping regulatory agendas and staving off new regulation.