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Pathways and prospects in cancer research: Securing futures and negotiating boundaries

Original Article

DOI: 10.1057/s41292-017-0036-5

Cite this article as:
Hillman, A., Lewis, J. & Elwyn, G. BioSocieties (2017). doi:10.1057/s41292-017-0036-5


This paper draws on literature from the sociology of expectations to explore accounts of experts in cancer research and clinical practice. The cancer specialists’ accounts presented in this article are taken from interviews undertaken as part of a project that aimed to develop a research agenda for the next ten to thirty years that will achieve early detection and prevention in the four main cancers: (i) bowel and colorectal, (ii) prostate, (iii) lung and (iv) breast. Drawing on secondary analysis of the interviews, this article provides a sociological exploration of both the experts’ versions of the future and the interactions between the interviewer and research participant to show expectation in the making: the competing stories of what is and what ought to be the focus of cancer research now and in the (near) future. The building of a cancer research agenda is shown to be a contested future, represented by a dominant and resistant view of the cancer problem, in which cancer specialists must engage in performative strategies and boundary work to frame the present problem: what cancer is and how it can be detected and, subsequently, to claim credibility for a future pathway.


futures sociology of expectations cancer research constitution of knowledge boundary work 

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff University School of Social SciencesCardiffUK
  2. 2.The Preference LaboratoryThe Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical PracticeLebanonUSA

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