In this paper we examine an increasingly important form of global governance for the field of human embryonic stem cell science; the processes of standardisation. Technical standardisation is essential for any scientific field to develop and is applicable to all stages of knowledge production from the basic science to the market product. However in the case of stem cell science, the apparently neutral processes of standardisation are inextricably entwined with issues of cultural value, particularly around the ethical status of the embryo. This paper examines this tension in two domains of standardisation: basic research and patenting. In formal governance terms, the two domains appear quite different. Basic research governance in stem cell science is characterised by a high degree of self-regulation by science, albeit with state sponsorship, whereas patenting falls within the legal aegis of international and state bodies. However, in pursuit of standardisation both domains are obliged to wrestle with the politics of the technical-ethical relationship and with the ways that relationship can be organised as a technology of governance. To that extent they form part of a common process of contestation and governance evolution.
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DOI 10.2202/1941-6008.1031
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