Science and (Religio-)Culture. Investigating identity constructions in stem-cell research in Germany and the United States


Does it make a difference if researcher with different cultural backgrounds cooperate in one team? Does this kind of heterogeneity influence the process of investigation? The project addresses these questions theoretically and empirically and, thereby, works on central research gaps of the Science Studies. The discipline aims to investigate the „social embeddedness“ of scientific work. However, potential cultural differences in the production of knowledge are underestimated so far, but scientific communities are widely seen as homogeneous entities. In contrast, the project focus on the individual biographies of the researcher and their potential influence on the process of investigation.

These questions shall be analyzed in the field of stem-cell research, focusing on a comparative case study of two laboratories, one in Germany and one in the United States. The field of stem cell research is particular interesting because one can have complete contrasting hypothesis regarding the “social embeddedness” of investigation: On the one hand, it is a highly specialized field within a well established discipline of natural science and, thus, one could expect a high degree of homogeneity and closure against non-scientific influences. On the other hand, the history of science has shown numerous examples of how (religio-)culture has influenced especially the field of medical research. Today, there are various controversial ethical and moral debates about stem-cell research in the public sphere and researcher are asked to deal with those ethical and moral issues individually. The project asks whether and, if so, how the individual attitudes do have any influence on the cooperation within the research team.