Steering Vaccinomics Innovations with Anticipatory Governance and Participatory Foresight


Published: 22Sep2011

Authors: Ozdemir, Vural; Faraj, Samer A.; Knoppers, Bartha M.


Vaccinomics is the convergence of vaccinology and population-based omics sciences. The success of knowledge-based innovations such as vaccinomics is not only contingent on access to new biotechnologies. It also requires new ways of governance of science, knowledge production, and management. This article presents a conceptual analysis of the anticipatory and adaptive approaches that are crucial for the responsible design and sustainable transition of vaccinomics to public health practice. Anticipatory governance is a new approach to manage the uncertainties embedded on an innovation trajectory with participatory foresight, in order to devise governance instruments for collective '' steering '' of science and technology. As a contrast to hitherto narrowly framed '' downstream impact assessments '' for emerging technologies, anticipatory governance adopts a broader and interventionist approach that recognizes the social construction of technology design and innovation. It includes in its process explicit mechanisms to understand the factors upstream to the innovation trajectory such as deliberation and cocultivation of the aims, motives, funding, design, and direction of science and technology, both by experts and publics. This upstream shift from a consumer '' product uptake '' focus to '' participatory technology design '' on the innovation trajectory is an appropriately radical and necessary departure in the field of technology assessment, especially given that considerable public funds are dedicated to innovations. Recent examples of demands by research funding agencies to anticipate the broad impacts of proposed research-at a very upstream stage at the time of research funding application-suggest that anticipatory governance with foresight may be one way how postgenomics scientific practice might transform in the future toward responsible innovation. Moreover, the present context of knowledge production in vaccinomics is such that policy making for vaccines of the 21st century is occurring in the face of uncertainties where the '' facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent and where no single one of these dimensions can be managed in isolation from the rest.'' This article concludes, however, that uncertainty is not an accident of the scientific method, but its very substance. Anticipatory governance with participatory foresight offers a mechanism to respond to such inherent sociotechnical uncertainties in the emerging field of vaccinomics by making the coproduction of scientific knowledge by technology and the social systems explicit. Ultimately, this serves to integrate scientific and social knowledge thereby steering innovations to coproduce results and outputs that are socially robust and context sensitive.

Read full paper: OMICS A Journal of Integrative Biology, September 2011