Antimicrobial resistance and climate change: Communication, governance and responsibility

Last week I was reading some tweets from an international science communication conference held at Dunedin, New Zealand. As I have blogged and written about hype, I was particularly interested in tweets about a fascinating Roundtable convened by Tara Roberson entitled: “Can hype be a force for good? – Debating the benefits and drawbacks of science …

Fermenting hope; fermenting hype?

When I first became involved with the Synthetic Biology Research Centre here at the University of Nottingham in 2014, I wrote a blog post in which I pointed to fermentation as one of its historical and intellectual roots. I called it ‘Fermenting thought’. Now, four years later, I have come across an article in The …

Microbiomics: Heading the bandwagon off at the pass

Epigenetics once was a new and emerging field. Although there is no scientific consensus about the correct meaning of ‘epigenetics’ and scientists are increasingly sceptical of some claims being made, one can say, following Kat Arney, that epigenetics tries to “explain how the things that happen to us during a lifetime somehow imprint on our …

Our microbiome: Separating hype from health

This is a blog post by Nicholas Staropoli, originally posted at the Epigenetics Literacy Project on April 18, 2017. It’s reposted here with permission. The post deals with the issue of hype, which we have discussed a lot on this blog; in this post the focus is on the microbiome. *** The details of science — how to …

Epigenetics, hype and woo

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a new twitter account: @EpigeneticsBs (short for ‘epigenetics bullshit’). Its mission is to make epigenetic ‘bullshit’ public, or as it says: “There’s a lot of #epigenetics pseudoscience & quackery out there. We RT some of it for your edification and entertainment.” These (re)tweets are produced by people working …

Making sense of plasticity

I recently got an invitation to a workshop on ‘Plasticity and its Limits’ (which will bring together scholars from the social sciences, humanities and life sciences). When I accepted the invitation I had, I have to confess, not given much thought to the concept of plasticity – I had, however, written some blog posts about …

Epigenetics, hype and harm

I first became interested in epigenetics in around 2010/2011. I know this because I trawled my emails and found a link that I had sent myself on 11 February 2011 to an article in Mother Jones entitled “The illustrated guide to epigenetics”. The first paragraph of this guide is rather prophetic: “This month marks the …

Assembling a synthetic human genome: Science and the politics of openness

There has recently been some commotion in the field of synthetic biology about a meeting held at Harvard on 10 May 2016 at which scientists discussed the creation of a synthetic human genome. The meeting was a closed, invitation-only meeting. In a field of science that takes pride in its openness and transparency, this created …

Precision metaphors in a messy biological world

The promises of nanoscience and nanotechnology have been framed by a variety of future oriented metaphors, such as the those of the fantastic voyage or the master builder. The former metaphor has been especially prominent in early reports on the promises of nanomedicine, but it is still in use today. What happens when real breakthroughs …