skip to primary navigationskip to content

3rd annual Philomathia Symposium: 'Body Politics'

Body Politics: the dilemmas of regulating new technologies


Friday, 18 November 2016

Cripps Court, Magdalene College, Cambridge

Panels 9:30-17:00; Keynote 17:30


Please register via: 


The Philomathia Social Sciences Research Programme is committed to bringing together sciences and the social sciences in order to inform policy debate.  This year’s Symposium follows the successful event in 2015 when we asked ‘What sort of world will we leave our grandchildren?’ This year we turn to ‘Body Politics’.       

Society is facing major challenges as advances in bio-medical technologies pose fundamental philosophical, ethical, legal and political questions. Who directs investment in the search for new technologies, and who has ownership and control of them?  How are they regulated, and how are decisions about their use formulated? This Symposium brings together social scientists with scientists in order to engage with major issues of policy. Should the law allow patenting of DNA or not? What are the implications of intervention to rectify ‘errors’ in DNA? What are the implications of a shift to individualised treatment based on analysis of the patient’s DNA?  These questions intersect with intervention in reproduction, both to assist infertile couples to have children, and to deal with genetic disease. What are the limits of intervention, and who should make the decisions?  And how should the shortage of organs for transplant be overcome? Should there be a presumption that organs are donated unless an individual opts out? How should surgeons balance the risk of using suboptimal organs against the risk of death? 

The Symposium will address three themes – the law of DNA patents, family planning, and sub-optimal organ transplants – and conclude with a policy roundtable and a plenary lecture.  The University of Cambridge has been at the forefront of development in bio-medical science in all of these areas, and this Symposium aims to enter into dialogue with social scientists and to reflect on the implications for policy.

We will have three panels under the following headings followed by a policy roundtable and keynote lecture:

Should we change EU law to disallow DNA patents? Contributors include Dr John Bradley, Professor Timo Minssen and Professor Mateo Aboy

Family planning in the era of changing fertility: Contributors include Professor Sarah Franklin and Sarah Norcross

The need for the transplantation of suboptimal organs: Contributors include Dr Kourosh Saeb-Parsy and Dr Matthew Dyson

Policy roundtable: Contributors include Sir Roy Calne, Professor Michael Parker and Sally Cheshire.

Keynote speaker: Professor Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard University

Each chaired session will consist of three 10-15 minute talks followed by a panel discussion which will then be opened up to the floor.


*Booking is free, but essential.

Registration can be made via: no later than Friday, 2 September. Please do register even if you’re only able to attend part of the day.




Programme Logo

History of Wealth Project

This project, co-funded by the Philomathia Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust, investigates the broader significance of wealth an inheritance in 19th and early-20th century Britain.

This programme was launched by POLIS in October 2013, and aims to train future policy-makers to value and promote evidence-based policies that can most benefit society.