Inter-epistemic Power and Transforming Knowledge Abjects in a Biomedical Network
McGivern G., Dopson S.
We examine a multidisciplinary network established to translate genetics science into practice in the British NHS. Drawing on theory about epistemic communities and objects, we describe three stages in their lifecycle (vision/formation, transformation and reincarnation) and epistemic clashes over knowledge objects. Medical academics captured jurisdiction over the network at formation, through their superior knowledge of the nascent genetics discipline, producing epistemic objects reflecting their interests. A governmental community challenged medical academics for jurisdiction but, unable to transform objects by changing their space of representation in performance reporting, ceased funding the network, which then closed. Afterwards, however, a NHS community successfully ‘reincarnated’ a discarded epistemic object into a technical object in NHS practice. We make a theoretical contribution by developing a processual framework for understanding biomedical innovation, focusing on transforming objects situated between different wider knowledge/power structures. This explains how objects were transformed at micro-level through the interaction and relative power of local communities, influenced by macro-level rules about knowledge formation in wider epistemic, organizational and governmental communities.