Accepted paper:

How can we do bovine Tuberculosis science? Boundary objects, method standardisation and divergent viewpoints in a 'Badger Found Dead Survey'


Jess Phoenix (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores open science related to badgers and bovine Tuberculosis. Ethnographic findings detail how the use of 'boundary objects' in open science can reduce contestation between actors and open gates in the field, whilst only partly opening fragile gates to the laboratory and politics.

Paper long abstract:

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a controversy in England, somewhat fuelled by the inconsistency of scientific research regarding the involvement of badgers in disease transmission. I undertook ethnographic fieldwork on a 'badger found dead survey' that aimed to determine the prevalence of Mycobacterium bovis (M bovis- bacteria that causes bTB) in badgers. The survey was a collective endeavour between divergent actors: badger cull protestors, farmers, vets, microbiologists and badger vaccinators.

This paper examines the survey as an open science project that created an inclusionary network based on the shared goal of understanding the prevalence of M. bovis in badgers. The concepts of boundary objects and method standardisation are woven together with my data to explore why actors picked up dead badgers. This leads into an analysis of gatekeeping of the survey in the field, in the laboratory and in politics. The paper examines how the collection of carcasses was a fully open practice, whilst badger necropsies and the culturing of M bovis remained somewhat closed practices. The fragility of these practices is contrasted with the security that was created by openly sharing the uncertainties of the closed practices.

The paper opens new ways of thinking about and doing science in order to show how and why open science can be an object for progressive conversation between divergent viewpoints. The application of the concept of boundary objects leads to a consideration of how scientific studies can produce generalisable findings and bridge social worlds by challenging who opens and closes different gates.

panel D03
Contested gates -- epistemic and social implications of opening knowledge production and science communication