Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Governance and public engagement in a global perspective

Blog post by Claire Packman, Egenis (on Session 5B - Governance and public engagement in a global perspective)

The session was chaired by Yuko Harayama, the OECD’s Science, Technology and Industry deputy director. She suggested in her opening remarks that there seems to be broad agreement that public engagement is worth doing, that: “The value of science and technology needs to be examined, not just from the academic point of view,”, But how should it be done? As the session unfolded it became clear that different nations have adopted very different approaches.

How the personal is still political: Why food security is about biofuels is about land rights

Blog post by Dr Christine Knight, Genomics Forum (on Session 5A - Food Security and Sustainable Diets)

Professor Steve Hughes from Egenis opened this penultimate session of the conference by congratulating the audience on our endurance – with the end of proceedings in sight, many people’s attention has been diverted by travel anxieties as snow falls outside. With the loss of a mystery speaker from Brazil for this session, Professor Paul Richards has been added to the programme as a respondent to speakers Professor Simon Bright and Dr Benard Muok. This is a session I’ve been looking forward to as I recently organised, but wasn’t able to attend, a similar event on the “politics of plants” at the Green Party Annual Conference 2010, at which Professor Bright also spoke.

Methane not a laughing mattter...

Blog post by Claire Packman, Egenis (on Session 4B - Green Growth and Life Science Innovation for Sustainability)

Methane emissions from livestock may make small children (and possibly not so small) giggle, but as Tara Garnett demonstrated in her talk ‘Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions’, they are in fact quite serious. Livestock account for something between 12-18 per cent of global emissions, and demand is set to double for meat and milk. Tara looked at the technological possibilities for reducing emissions, including increasing yields – “more milk per burp” was her memorable phrase, but concluded that by themselves they won’t be enough.

Psychiatric Genomics in good mental health

Blog post by Kristrun Gunnarsdottir, Cesagen: (on Session 4A - Personalised Medicine: Debating the Promise of Psychiatric Genomics)

The chair, Adam Hedgecoe of Ceasgen opened with an apology for the absence of Nick Craddock, Cardiff Medical School - another victim of the wintry weather.

What can we make of personalised psychiatric genetics in 2010?
  • Mike Arribas-Ayllon, Ceasagen talked about managing promise and complexity: gene networks, unpredictable environmental factors, hard-to-classify patients and psychiatrists who are already very cautious about promising a cure.
  • Maria Arranz, Institute of Psychiatry, London argued that great achievements are reached if genomics can help, even if only minimally, predicting reaction to psychiatric medication. Managing doses and types of medication has always been notoriously difficult.
  • Barbara Prainsack, Austrian Bioethics Commission, argued that direct-to-consumer testing does not lead to more genetic determinism. Consumers/patients/individuals are more sophisticated than that. 

‘Converging Technologies’ a Contested Concept

Blog post by Shawn H.E. Harmon, Innogen (on Session 3A - Converging Technologies: Promises, Programmes, and Practices)

As pointed out by Prof. Robin Williams, Innogen, co-convenor of this panel, the idea of ‘technology convergence’, an idea explored in a variety of ways and sessions at this conference, has a number of meanings and uses.  This session was not so much about how technologies are converging or how science regulation should or can respond to this phenomenon, but rather what we mean by ‘convergence’ and the baggage that the term carries.