Expert Knowledges and Action-Nets in the Field of Biothechnologies: Studying a Network In-The-Making
Sociology and Social Research Trento University Trento, Italy
What contributes to the enactment of a network of knowledge and technological innovation? And what are the elements involved in its stabilization?
To answer these two questions, the paper will address the question of the coordination and institutionalization of knowledge in the biotechnology sector, as a prime field in which to observe the intermingling and interaction of scientific, professional and technological knowledge, and of a plurality of organizational actors and practices.
In fact, the biotechnological sector is nowadays configuring itself as the point of confluence of a plurality of knowledges and organizational practices, whose common denominator is a strong technological orientation. They are mediated by diverse technologies and are at the same time oriented to the learning of new forms of action, work, and technological innovation. The biotechnological sector (and the knowledge connected with it), thus, occupy a privileged position from which to observe the encounter among an array of expert knowledges, technologies and organizational and professional memberships.
Observing the constitution and stabilization of an Italian biotechnological network (involving ten departments of three universities, two national research institutes, two hospital research centres and two science and technology parks), the paper will focus on the coordination and stabilization of a web of knowledges and organizational practices, the common denominator of which is a strong technological orientation. Following an actor-network perspective, the case will be analysed as an attempt to stabilize and institutionalize a learning network within which new technologies (and knowledge connected with them) occupy a prime position, and in which the meeting and merging of a plurality of expert knowledges and professional memberships can be observed.
The conclusions will critically reflect on the case-study presented, highlighting how elements involved in enacting forms of interorganizational collaboration are not necessary the same ones that stabilize a network in itself. Finally, the paper will offer some methodological reflections about the studying of a network in-the-making, underlining the importance of investigating networks not only from a structural standpoint, but also from a processual one, in order to understand the various practices of knowledge production and coordination.