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Enacting the Good Economy: Biocapitalization and the little tools of valuation

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - LITTLE TOOLS (Enacting the Good Economy: Biocapitalization and the little tools of valuation)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

Across Europe, the transition to a new “bioeconomy” offers promises of a sustainable future. The life sciences are called upon to create new forms of value from biological life. The promise is not only that this economy will produce surplus value; it should also provide sustainable growth, employment, animal and human welfare along with the protection of nature – solutions to our current predicaments. In other words, the economy promises to be good. This, what we term the “good economy”, is what the Little Tools project aims to study: How and by what means do such transformations happen? What roles do science, markets, and politics play in these transformations, both historically and currently?

Given our societies’ urgent need to move away from fossil-based economies and into a sustainable, good economy, understanding the dynamics and ramifications of these ongoing transitions is of key importance. In studying these questions, the Little Tools project focuses on the sectors of fisheries and aquaculture and their part in what is often now called “the blue economy” and “the ocean economy”. By following the Atlantic cod, both harvested and farmed, we investigate past and present political processes, technological innovations, scientific advances, expanding markets, public controversies, and environmental conflicts. Across these sites, we analyze how the Atlantic cod is valued and made valuable in widely different, often contradictory ways.

The objectives of the project are twofold: The first main objective is to provide new empirical insights about how biocapitalization processes are enacted in practice and at carefully selected strategic sites, using cross-disciplinary methods from actor-network theory, history, and economic sociology. The second main objective is to provide an analytical and methodological framework that can respond to core challenges in contemporary science & technology studies (STS).
The project is now entering into its final stage. In its third period, the work has involved extended data collection, analysis, preparing publications, and the building of international research networks. The project is organized into four work packages, of which the first three reflects the main empirical sites of the project : WP1 Science, WP2 Markets and WP3 Politics. In addition comes the cross-cutting WP4 Methods, which concerns interdisciplinary methodological development. The work has involved considerable data collection, analysis and writing in all WPs. In WP3 and WP4, several key publications are already finalized and published, while major publications are reaching completion in WP 1 and 2. The project team has throughout the period organized several international conference panels and international workshops and has given invited lectures to multiple relevant research communities in Europe, thus initiating and engaging extensively in building international research networks in Europe and the US.
The Little Tools project team has in this period prioritized completing data collection and analysis and are moving toward the completion of several major publications. In paralell, the team has taken advantage of the project’s ongoing research to intervene in current public debates, notably on the topics of the Norwegian government’s aquaculture policy and Ocean Strategy; the definitions of impact in science policy; and historical perspectives on current developments within environmental policy and way of life, hence reaching a considerable number of policy makers, industry leaders, civil society, and the general public. While the potential impact and wider societal implications of these media contributions are challenging to measure in exact terms, the value of research-based interventions in urgent political matters should not be underestimated.
Cod eggs. Left: Photo credit IMR, Bergen. Right: Sketch by G.O.Sars, ca. 1865, NLN collection.