University of Sussex
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Governing the constructs of life: what constitutes ‘good’ governance?

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:55 authored by Molly Morgan Jones
This thesis explores contrasting perspectives on what constitutes 'good governance' for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. It asks whether there are systematic differences between perspectives of UK and US policy actors and what kinds of patterns are discernible. Biomedical technologies like hESCs generate complex interactions between public values, institutional interests, societal expectations and technological uncertainties. These pose serious governance challenges. Under such conditions, diverse aspects and implications of risk, ambiguity and uncertainty come into focus. We need appraisal processes that address these issues by combining quantitative and qualitative dimensions to 'open up' divergent governance framings. The research framework employed here uses and further develops one such elicitation and analysis process called Multicriteria Mapping (MCM). MCM combines qualitative sensitivity with quantitative precision, while also aiding transparency and reflexivity in documenting and understanding diverse stakeholder perspectives. We therefore address 'good' governance both as an analytical subject and as a rationale for testing a novel form of appraisal. The analysis discerns systematic patterns in perspectives on good governance across national contexts and between stakeholders, identifying several points of convergence and divergence. We examine underlying rationales behind individual perspectives, obtaining empirical support for recent theoretical arguments concerning technology appraisal and democratic deliberation. We find national policy literatures make greater use of moral and ethical language to frame governance challenges, by comparison with stakeholders' emphasis on institutional and socio-political factors. This suggests a more critical and cautious stance is needed towards the legitimatory language of 'bioethics' in policy making. Finally, we explore some of the normative implications for governance of culturally sensitive and scientifically uncertain issues. By providing reflexive explanations of factors influencing perspectives of policy actors, this thesis makes a number of interlinked theoretical, methodological, empirical and normative contributions to understanding of how good governance of biomedical technologies is and should be conducted.


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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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