I currently have projects examining:

  • synthetic biologists’ attempts to engineer at the ‘organism scale’;
  • the role of funding organisations in governing science;
  • the governance and politics of gene drive technologies.

In each I ask questions about the way knowledge is created and technologies are governed. My research is usually collaborative – conducted with natural scientists, social scientists, practitioners, administrators and artists.

Future Organisms

Scientists are now able to make complex genetic interventions into organisms’ genomes, to the point of synthesising whole genomes from scratch. Jane Calvert (PI), Erika Szymanski, Koichi Mikami and I have recently been awarded funding from the UK Economic Social and Research Council and US National Science Foundation to study synthetic biologists’ attempts to engineer biology at the organismal scale.

We’ll be exploring the visions and narratives driving investment in this endeavour, the role of the organism in engineering, and the capacities for social scientists to shape the development of scientific fields. Our main empirical sites will be in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Japan and we’ll aim to draw together literature on multispecies studies, which examines how different organisms inter-relate, and responsible innovation, which aims to expose the assumptions behind science and technology to improve governance.


  • Future Organisms: Synthetic Genomics and Responsible Research and Innovation in the UK, the USA and Japan. ESRC-NSF SBE Lead Agency Award 2021-2024 (PI: Jane Calvert, w/ Co-Is Erika Szymanski and Koichi Mikami).
  • UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre Award (PI: Susan Rosser, Co-I: Jane Calvert).

Funding cultures

Research funding organisations are a preeminent site of science policy. They set priorities for their respective fields, provide science advice and contribute to national debate on topics relating to science, technology and innovation.

I lead research with Jane Calvert, Thoko Kamwendo, Deborah Scott, Ros Attenborough that questions the roles and responsibilities of these frequently-overlooked organisations. How are decisions about the scope of a research agenda achieved? How are differing ideas of valuable research negotiated? And with these same staff, we have developed new governance methodologies to shape emerging scientific fields in democratic societies.

We have worked with public funding programmes in biotechnologysustainable food systemsnanosciencematerialsneuroscience and graphene. We collaborate with science administrators in the UK’s BBSRC,  the Norwegian Research Council, the France Agence Nationale de la Recherche, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, and, in Germany, Project Management Jülich, the Agency for Renewable Raw Materials and the Saxon State Ministry for Knowledge, Culture and Tourism. You can read more about this work at the Funding Cultures Lab.


  • Critical Codes: A roundtable on codes of conduct for emerging technologies. (PI w/ Co-Is Matjaz Vidmar and Filippo Cuttica). New America Venture Fund; 2022.
  • Learning from ERA CoBioTech’s RRI Agenda. (PI w/ Rosalind Attenborough and Zara Thokozani Kamwendo). Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; 2021-22.
  • Building Capacity for Responsible Innovation in International Biotechnology Policy Organisations. ESRC Impact Accelerator Award 2019 (PI w/ CoIs Thoko Kamwendo and Jane Calvert).
  • Supporting Best Practice Responsible Research & Innovation in the ERA-Net CoFund on Biotechnology Research Programme. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; 2019 (PI, Co-I’s Jane Calvert, Deborah Scott and Thoko Kamwendo).
  • Developing a framework for Responsible Research and Innovation in ERA CoBioTech. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, 2017 (Co-PI w/ Jane Calvert).
  • UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre Award (PI: Susan Rosser, Co-I: Jane Calvert).
  • Responsible Innovation at the BBSRC: Facilitating policy formulation and implementation. ESRC Impact Accelerator Award, 2015 (Co-PI w/ Sarah Hartley).

Gene drives

Sometimes new technologies challenge established routines, forcing people and organisations to think about which technologies are developed, how they are governed, and by whom. One such technology is gene drive, a collection of genetic manipulation methodologies able to ‘push’ normally unfavourable traits, such as sterility, through populations of organisms. 

In a string of projects led by Sarah Hartley, and with collaborators at the University of Exeter, Makerere University (Uganda), Imperial College London and North Carolina State University (USA), I am examining how people in Uganda and several international governance organisations develop and govern gene drive mosquitoes. Who stands to benefit from the development of this promissory and uncertain technology? How does gene drive challenge established forms of governance — such as risk assessment and risk management — that governments have relied on to regulate genetic modification? And could gene drive be developed in ways that are more inclusive and sensitive to their contexts of use than might otherwise be the case? You can read more about this work at the gene drive governance website.


  • Preparing for debate on gene drive mosquitoes in Uganda. (Co-I w/ Chris Opesen; PI – Sarah Hartley). Global Challenges Research Fund; 2022-2023.
  • Co-developing risk assessment across disciplines and borders: Gene drive mosquito field trials in Uganda. British Academy Knowledge Frontiers 2018 Award (Co-I; PI – Sarah Hartley).
  • Inclusive and international risk assessment: Building a framework for gene drive organisms through collaboration. British Academy Knowledge Frontiers 2020 Award (Co-I; PI – Sarah Hartley).
  • Strengthening gene drive governance for malaria control in Africa. Research England Global Challenges Research Fund 2021. (Co-I; PI – Sarah Hartley).