The emergence of gene-editing using CRISPR-Cas9 technology has changed the field of biology at a rapid pace. In the dim light of biotechnological developments, an international movement of Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) communities has grown, which makes research instruments available outside of institutions by inventing and producing cheap alternatives, working open source and practicing biology outside traditional labs. This thesis examines the Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) community, with a focus on initiatives in the Netherlands and Belgium. According to the existing literature, one of the outcomes of DIYbio is that science is democratized. This thesis builds on work of STS-scholars, I use the concept of the ‘recursive public’ by Christian Kelty (2008) to build the argument that the DIYbio community is a recursive public by of the interwovenness between their practices and their formation as a public. The concept of the recursive public has been formerly used to understand several bottom-up movements that challenge authorities, aspects which are characteristic for DIYbio, but has not been used to analyze the community of DIYbiologists. I argue that understanding DIYbiologists as a recursive public will give a more in depth understanding of the use of the concept recursive public by analyzing a group of people that come together online as well as online. Democratizing science, arguably one of the pillars of DIYbio, can be done and understood in several ways. It is thus relevant to get an understanding how DIYbio practices this and what effects this has on those wanting to partake and on the accessibility of the natural sciences. I argue that while DIYbio opens science up as a recursive public, it is not able to fully democratize science. To build this argument I have analyzed the practice of democratizing science through participant observation during online meetups and on forums to understand how participants act like-minded while content analysis of websites gives a better understanding how the community presents itself publicly. In five in-depth semi-structured interviews with participants I got a deeper understanding of the motivations to participate in DIYbio. The research is conducted using digital means because the DIYbio movement relies for a bigger part of knowledge and network infrastructures on the internet and operates online as well as offline. During the period of research their work fully took place online.

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Jess Bier, Maja Hertoghs
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Vermijs, R. (2020, June 20). Opening up science as a recursive public: a study of Do-It-Yourself Biology in the Low Lands. Sociology. Retrieved from