DR. MICHAEL ARRIBAS-AYLLON has a mixed background for an academic. He came from social psychology and then found himself in sociology. He has researched topics as diverse as chronic illness, Australian welfare politics and perceptions of risk. He once had ambitions of being a critical psychologist and now find himself researching ‘genomics’. Genomics is as good place as any to explore the tensions between biology and society – something that has always been an undercurrent in his research. As an academic in the social sciences, he believes we have something different to offer than our colleagues in neuroscience and biology.
This is a difference in focus and ‘division of labour’ rather than a difference of opinion. Where our colleagues in neuroscience and biology are committed to a programme of understanding human behaviour from the point of view of molecular and functional biology, he is committed to a programme of understanding historically how the very idea of ‘the person’ became an object of various kinds of knowledge. While he has the greatest respect for scientific knowledge, it is the relationship between science and society that holds his interest. His role is to help create spaces in which science and society can engage in meaningful discussions and debates about ideas and technologies that will shape our future.