Facilitating biomedical research in Austria
Modern Biotechnology IFZ Graz, Austria
During the last decade, biomedical research has certainly been one of the major hopes of science policy making. Many European countries have launched specific research programmes to stimulate and foster biomedical research. Not only significant advancements in public health and medical practice have been expected, but also economic potentials have been attributed to this research field (and science policy making). Large public investments have been taken to provide a research infrastructure and organisational conditions for biomedical research. In Austria the Vienna Bio Center (VBC) is a good example for this and also the Austrian genome research programme GEN-AU. With these science policy initiatives Austria aimed to put itself on the map and to become an international player in the European research landscape.
A specific element of biomedical research initiatives all across the western world are specifically designed research programmes to investigate the ethical, legal, and social aspects of genome research (ELSA). This tandem-model was introduced already together with the Human Genome Project and adopted by many countries for their own national research policies of biomedical research.
The explicit linkage of genome research and the reflection of its ethical, legal and social implications constitutes unique circumstances for the research that is carried out under this framework. Not only is it a paradigmatic example for science policy making that aims to produce a socially more "robust knowledge", but also it raises fundamental (methodological) questions about the social function of a research that is expected to feedback and thereby to shape the research field it is investigating.
With this paper I will discuss biomedical research as a prime case of the complex interrelations between science and policy making. ELSA research is encouraged to provide knowledge on the basis of which policy decisions can be made (civic epistemologies). While at the same time policy makers confront researchers with ever stronger expectations that their work should meet - especially economic - goals that lay traditionally beyond the boundaries of academia.