Stem cells and technoscience :
sociology of the emergence and regulation
of a biomedical research field in France
Biomedical research is on the cutting edge of contemporary reconfigurations of the academic world and thus constitutes an excellent focus of study for sociology of science. Existing studies describe the rise of « researcher-entrepreneurs », the blurring of traditional boundaries between science and industry, and in some cases the abandonment of the very principles supposed to characterize the scientific community. Here we work to clarify these reconfigurations by studying a new biomedical field – human embryonic stem cell research –and a central actor in France, the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases (I-STEM). In line with the sociological tradition of studying scientific specialties, the article analyzes the emergence of I-STEM in terms of both the time frames that have to be made to coincide within a single project and the project’s integration into the Évry bioscience park south of Paris. In applying a broad conception of the regulation of science, the article shows how important it is for sociologists not to use an overly reductive frame for interpreting the logic of scientific action ; on the basis of a comparison between France and England, it shows the need for replacing the notion of technoscience-as-transgression with an approach centered around regimes for organizing scientific work.