Neuerscheinung! “Samples Are Precious”: Value Formations in the Potentiality and Practices of Biobanking in Singapore (Erik Aarden)

Biobanking in Singapore is characterized by contested relations between funding ambitions and research practices, and different notions of what the (potential) value of storing samples and data for medical research is. Different biobanking efforts anticipate the production of public goods from stored materials in specifically situated ways. These efforts to produce public goods in the form of scientific and economic value can be fruitfully understood in terms of extraction, a complex sociotechnical process of retrieving (potential) value from raw materials, which both informs and is informed by specific social values. In exploring the extraction of potential value in relation to practice values, I propose the notion of value formations to account for the coproduction of and intersections between different forms of value(s) in scientific practices situated in particular social contexts. I trace value formations across the life span of biobanking collections, which range from recruitment, collection, and processing of samples to their storage, retrieval, and use. Observations along this life span show the social and temporal complexity of value-making in biobanking in Singapore, pointing to the contextual specificity of how biobanking is understood as a public good.

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