Embryo project investigates agents of change in science

TEMPE, Ariz. -- An ambitious group of historians, philosophers, bioethicists, scientists, lawyers and policy experts from ASU will be taking a detailed look at the history of embryo research in order to understand how society, culture and technology have affected the course of science.

ASU professor Jane Maienschein and her colleagues have been awarded a three-year grant of $750,000 by the National Science Foundation for the project as a part of the NSF Human and Social Dynamics program.

Maienschein, director of ASU's Center for Biology and Society, will lead a diverse group of researchers in examining how the study of embryos has developed, especially from the 19th century to the present. Research leaders in the project are all members of ASU's School of Life Sciences and include professors Manfred Laubichler; Gary Marchant, director of the Center for Law, Science and Technology; and Daniel Sarewitz, director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes.

Under the "embryo project," Maienschein and her ASU collaborators have assembled a group of undergraduate and graduate researchers, who will work with two dozen investigators from six countries to examine the different scientific, social, cultural and organizational contexts that have affected the development of embryology as a science.

"Embryo research serves as an ideal candidate to investigate the intersection of biology and society," Maienschein said. Stem cell research, a recent development in the study of embryos, provides a good example of how ethical, legal, political and religious factors can affect science and its role in society.

Goals for the project include providing a rich description of embryo research over key periods of its history, analyzing and comparing each period for agents of change and "developing materials for scholars and the general public to address any questions related to embryo research," Maienschein said.


Contact: Skip Derra
Arizona State University

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