, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 397–416 | Cite as

Constituting large-scale biology: Building a regime of governance in the early years of the Human Genome Project

  • Stephen Hilgartner
Original Article


This article examines how a regime for governing the US Human Genome Project (HGP) emerged during the early years of the project, paying special attention to the construction of what might be called its ‘governing frame’. This governing frame provided an interpretive scheme that constituted a set of entities (agents, spaces, things and actions) and promoted an official view of which agents would be endowed with what rights, duties, and privileges, powers and liabilities, and immunities and disabilities as they pertained to other agents and to control over spaces and things. The governing frame of the HGP regime was not codified formally in any single ‘constitutional’ document, but emerged through a historical process. The key elements of this regime took shape through a process of coproduction that constituted a new category of science – ‘large-scale biology’ – and the sociotechnical machinery for governing it. Simultaneously, extant molecular biology was redefined as ‘ordinary biology’, a form of science to be protected from and enhanced by Big Biology. The article is based on ethnographic research in the genome mapping and sequencing community during the HGP.


genomics Human Genome Project governance of science coproduction Big Science history of biology 


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Copyright information

© The London School of Economics and Political Science 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Hilgartner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Science & Technology StudiesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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