The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Matthias Wienroth

RIF Senior Research Associate

Background

Introduction

My research and engagement programme attends to the social-ethical question of how technology can contribute to the 'good society'. I am particularly interested in practices of knowledge production and attribution of value in this context.

In my work I draw on frameworks and methods from Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sociology, Anthropology, Empirical Ethics, Bioethics, Public Engagement, and Critical Policy Analysis. My work is interdisciplinary and includes engagement with scientific practitioners, publics & policy-makers.

I am part of the multi-national FP7 Network of Excellence EUROFORGEN, and the interdisciplinary scientific initiative on new and emerging forensic genetics technologies WIE-DNA. Since 2015, I have been building an international network for the Social Studies of Forensic Science.


Background

My first foray into STS was as part of my Ph.D. study on research practices and identities in the research and innovation field of nanotechnology. Continuing this particular strand of work on new and emerging science and technology, I subsequently joined a research project at Durham University, which attended to the governance of nanoscale science and technology via UK science policy. As part of this work I was awarded a Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation Project Scholarship (Chemical Heritage Foundation).

In 2011, I moved to Newcastle University to work on medical technology governance issues; and to Edinburgh University to attend to aspects of genomics in society, where, at the ESRC Genomics Policy & Research Forum, I was principal investigator on a pilot project bringing together artists and scientists, work funded by Creative Scotland and Edinburgh University. This fuelled my interest in art-science as an area of cross-boundary knowledge production, an aspect of my work I have also expanded into public and practitioner engagement since.

From the second half of 2012 until the end of 2016, I was part of project work in the Framework Programme 7-funded Network of Excellence EUROFORGEN, exploring with colleagues the social and ethical aspects of innovations in forensic genetics. One outcome of this work has been the publicly available guide "Making Sense of Forensic Genetics."

Between 2015 and 2017, I coordinated my collaborative Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) "Seminar Series on genetics, technology, security and justice: Crossing, contesting and comparing boundaries” with colleagues from Northumbria, Newcastle and Durham Universities. Whilst this formal series of meetings and exchanges has come to an end, I continue my collaboration with colleagues, speakers and participants in the series in developing research into practices and discourses around the use of biometrics technologies.

Before starting my current post at PEALS, I was Research Fellow at King's College London, studying epistemic aspects of integrating health research and care in the UK national health system on the case of patient recruitment practices into clinical research. I continue work on the integration of health care and research with colleagues at KCL, the University of Michigan, and in PEALS.


Impact

I engage in public debates about the use of DNA and other biometric technologies in policing and for security purposes more widely, e.g. I have been interviewed for The Future of Forensic Genetics podcast by the UK website The Naked Scientists, for a radio feature on DNA in criminal investigations by the German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, for an article on limitations of forensic science by the Spanish online newspaper El Espanol, and most recently for an article on forensic DNA phenotyping uses by the state by the French public broadcaster France 24.

Together with colleagues I frequently submit statements and expert accounts to public inquiries, for example on (i) the draft bill 'Modernisation of Criminal Proceedings' by the German state department of Justice and Consumer Protection, (ii) commercial genetics/genomics by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, and (iii) genome editing by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.


Qualifications

Ph.D. in Sociology, Newcastle University, UK, 2005-08

Mag.A. in Political Science, and in Adult Education, Leipzig University, Germany, 2002-05

Membership

European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST)

Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)

Languages

English, German


Google scholar: Click here.

ORCID: Click here.

Research

Research Interests

My research focuses on epistemic and ontological questions of science and technology as social practices - that is, I explore the role of science and technology in social and societal contexts. I am particularly interested in studying disciplinary, cross-disciplinary and cross-boundary knowledge production and organisation, their social & ethical aspects, and issues of governance here.

In my current work I focus on innovations in genetics and genomics, e.g. on forensic technologies utilising DNA to make inferences about unknown persons. As part of this work I engage in debates about social compatibility and ethical deliberation with scientific practitioners and decision-makers, in the UK, Germany, and internationally. A second strand of my work attends to exploring the discourse around publics and public goods for human health invoked by stakeholders of Genome Editing.

I also work on exploring technology identities, public perceptions of science and technology fields, governance issues, and the organisation of research in healthcare contexts (e.g. on the idea of the Learning Health System, understanding the ambitions of integrating health care and research, and on patient experiences with and perceptions of health technologies).

For access to my publications please see eprint.ncl.ac.uk.

For further information, please check my ORCID ID.

I also use Twitter to talk about my research and related issues via @photomao.


Funding

2019 - GPS Visiting Scholar Grant. £1,487.90 (2019/20)

2017 - HaSS Faculty Bid Development Fund. £5,000 (2017/18) (PI)

2017 - GPS School Small Research Grant: 'Baseline mapping of UK key stakeholders in genome editing and their views on ethical and social aspects of research and application for this field.' £975 (2017/18) (PI)

2015 - ESRC Research Seminars and Strategic Networks Competition: 'Seminar series on genetics, technology, security and justice. Crossing, contesting and comparing boundaries.' £30,284 (2015-2017) (PI)

2014 - HEIF Public Engagement and Impact Fund, Northumbria University. £2,250 (Co-I)

2014 - Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V. Speaker Grant. €450

2013 - FP7 EUROFORGEN Network of Excellence Travel Fellowship. €1,000

2012 - Creative Scotland grant: 'Art-science, creativity & promotion of public understanding of the life sciences in Scotland.' £5,840 (Co-I)

2011 - College of Humanities and Social Sciences Knowledge Exchange grant, Edinburgh University: 'Knowing post/genomics through photo-poetry.' £3,184.50 (PI)

2011 - EPSRC Impact Acceleration Fund: 'Metalhip. Using patient experiences to improve medical engineering design.' £35,000 (2011-2012) (PI TJ Joyce)

2009 - Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation Project Scholarship, Chemical Heritage Foundation. US$5,000

2007 - FP6 Nano-2-Life Network of Excellence Mobility Programme. £1,973

Teaching

SOC3084: Tools of Hope & Despair

In the autumn/winter semester 2019/20, I teach my module on 'Tools of Hope & Despair. Making Sense of Uncertainty & Expectation in Society' (SOC3084). The module combines an introduction to relevant classic sociology on uncertainty and expectations with contemporary work in the Sociology of Expectations, with topical case studies, and with methods (such as technology assessment, road-mapping, foresight, etc.) that contribute to shaping expectations and visions of the future.

Practitioner engagement

Since 2012, I have provided fora for scientific practitioners to learn more about social and ethical aspects of forensic genetics, aiming to enhance practitioners’ capacity for ethical deliberation in their scientific work. This work includes workshops and presentations at scientific conferences (e.g. at the bi-annual meetings of the International Society for Forensic Genetics [ISFG] in 2015, 2017, and 2019), and talks in research and forensic laboratories.

Previous teaching delivery

I have taught on social, ethical & regulatory aspects of forensic technologies uses in the criminal justice system on B.Sc. and M.Sc. programmes in Forensic Science (2013-2016, Northumbria University); and on social and ethical aspects of genetics and genomics in clinical contexts on an M.Res. programme for Neuromuscular Diseases (2017) and on an M.Sc. programme for Genomic Medicine (2018) (both Newcastle University).

Previously, I taught on various modules as part of the B.A. in Sociology (2006-2008, Newcastle University).

Publications