Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


MISTS Report Summary

Project ID: 313173
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - MISTS (Market-Based Initiatives as Solutions to Techno-Scientific Problems)

MISTS engages with market-based initiatives employed as potential solutions to public problems such as environmental or health-related issues. We use ‘market-based initiative’ as a term to cover a range of activities that incorporate a market component (from market creation, through market devices, to drawing on market principles in order to, for example, stake a claim for enhanced competition). The project draws together Science and Technology Studies (STS) research with ideas from anthropology, economic sociology and political theory (among other areas) to explore four sub-projects: attempts to build a market for privacy, a market scheme to incentivise vaccine development, international initiatives to resolve carbon emissions and a national system that uses market principles to render higher education research competitive.
The rise of market based initiatives from the 1970s and 1980s onwards as solutions to problems can be seen in numerous areas. For example, market based initiatives have been implemented in an attempt to enhance the value for money of public services by introducing competition for increasingly scarce public funds and have been discussed as one aspect of contemporary government austerity drives. We resist using singular terms such as neoliberalism to convey what is going on in these initiatives to instead consider the way such initiatives are composed through various devices, practices, policies and so on.
As STS scholars, we are particularly interested in the area of science and technology policy, where markets have been heralded as mechanisms to, amongst other things, stimulate otherwise absent innovation, introduce ethics into new fields, and generate efficiency, efficacy and greater equality. And yet in our research we find enduring controversy regarding for example: claims that in some areas there is no competition and hence there can be no market; that assumptions built into market models simplify key areas such as scientific discovery into linear financial models; that the insistence on creating a market is expensive and inefficient with regards to the problem to be solved; that on the terms on which they are established many market based initiatives fail; that markets asymmetrically allocate agency and capability at the expense of the most vulnerable and that market prerogatives are not neutral, but shape and constrain the activities and realities of those subject to them.
In order to take on these concerns we have engaged in up-close ethnographic research in our initial sub-projects on markets for privacy and markets for vaccines in low-income countries. In considering attempts to regulate the proliferation and monetisation of data through the online data industry, what we have found are, for example, start-up firms and community groups trying to invert taken for granted assumptions that the monetization of online data inevitably and straightforwardly harms individuals by, for example, invading their privacy. Instead, various organisations are attempting to rethink privacy in terms of control and the establishment of proxy property rights for users over their data. Alternatively, in attempts to transform global vaccine markets for low income countries, what we find is not markets in the wild, but pacifying, taming contracts, mutual obligations, and carefully managed supply chains, governed and held to account through international agreements, aid partnerships, diverse forms of expertise, standards of assessment and evidential delivery mechanisms. Market assemblages, political governance and counter-intuitive results abound.
Our on-going research will continue with further sub-projects on education and the environment. We continue to produce numerous academic and non-academic outputs, are involved in the organisation of events and are building a community of interest around these themes. To find out more, join in here:

Reported by

United Kingdom
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top