In a new paper published in Social Studies of Science, Erik Aarden develops a conceptual framework for analyzing the different meanings attributed to the European biobanking infrastructure BBMRI-ERIC. The paper shows how various meanings of Europe and European scientific integration are produced in the making of this infrastructure.
While transnational research infrastructure projects long preceded the formal integration process that created the European Union, their advancement is an increasingly central part of EU research policy and of European integration in general. This paper analyses the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure–European Research Infrastructure Consortium (BBMRI–ERIC) as a recent example of institutionalized scientific collaboration in Europe that has formally been established as part of EU science policy. BBMRI–ERIC, a network of European biobanks, is expected to contribute to both European science and European integration. Yet its achievements in these domains are interpreted differently by various actors involved. This paper draws on STS conceptualizations of infrastructures as relational, experimental, and promissory assemblages. These support the formulation of a working definition of research infrastructures that in turn helps to explore the heterogeneous meanings attributed to BBMRI–ERIC. The paper describes the creation of this distributed European research infrastructure, and divergent understandings of what it means for BBMRI–ERIC to be distributed, to be European and to be a research infrastructure. This analysis demonstrates how building a research infrastructure is also an effort to define what it means to be European—a process in which what is European about science and what science can do for Europe is continuously (re-)imagined, contested and negotiated.
The article can be found (open access) here.