UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Sara Peres

Sara Peres

I have been a full-time PhD student at UCL since April 2012. My doctorate is in social studies of science and technology and I am supervised by Prof Brian Balmer in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Dr Sam Randalls in the Geography Department. During this time I have been a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant for two STS undergraduate courses (Investigating Science and Society, 2012; Policy Issues in the Life Sciences, 2013).

I am interested in urban, small scale food production and tend a small container garden at home.

Questions, comments and tips on how to grow peas in small spaces are very welcome.

E: sara.peres.11@ucl.ac.uk

W: http://ucl.academia.edu/SaraPeres

Doctoral Research

The central premise underpinning the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) (FAO, 2004) is that countries are interdependent with respect to crop genetic diversity and international collaboration should be encouraged – both in conservation and facilitating use.

This project was spurred by an interest in understanding the technical, social and geographical aspects of the ‘globalisation’ of gene banking. Whereas there has been considerable academic interest in the legal and political implications of the Treaty (with respect to access and benefit sharing and associated issues such as Farmers’ Rights), its potential implications for the way ex situ conservation is organised and carried out in practice remain relatively unexplored.

In particular, the existence of common tools, policies and standards, the emphasis on greater collaboration and synchronisation of work, and calls for the creation of an efficient ‘Global System’ represent very interesting developments from an STS and Geography perspective.

Therefore, this project focuses on providing an account of how, why and through what means collaborations unfold in gene banking. The central research questions it addresses are:

  • In what ways does cooperation happen between gene banks, and gene banks and other institutions? What practices, tools, spaces, networks are involved in this effort?
  • What, if any, are the links between collaboration at the international level and the way specific gene bank collections are managed?
  • What is the underlying rationale for collaborating and what factors (technical, social, spatial) encourage or discourage it?

This project is funded by the ESRC UCL Doctoral Training Centre (interdisciplinary stream).

Research Interests

My current research interests include:

  • Biobanks for conservation: their practices and policies
  • Sociology of expectations; approaches to time and temporality, especially in relation to environmental degradation and biodiversity loss
  • Theories of value and values in STS
  • The implications of neoliberalism for the governance and funding of science, technology and natural resources
  • Geographies of science, globalisation and global responses to environmental issues.
  • STS approaches to understanding agricultural research and innovation, food systems

Conferences and Presentations

22.02.14 UCL STS Away Day to Exeter:

Gene Banks as Archives: Memory Practices in Crop Conservation

07.01.14 British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference:

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Embodying Conservation as a Global Concern and Enacting the ‘International Seed Treaty’ in the Arctic Permafrost

22.05.13 STS Research Day:

Promising Diversity: Seed Banks and Plant Breeding for Climate Change Adaptation

11.02.13 STS Work in Progress Seminar:

On Wild Relatives, Synthetic Wheats and Going Back to the Future: Sociology of Expectations Approaches to Understanding Plant Genetic Diversity Conservation and Use

26.11.13 Invited presentation: Environmental Knowledges Session 6:

Where the Wild Genes Are: Conservation and Use of Wild Relatives in the Adaptation of Crops to Climate Change.

Previous academic and professional experience

Originally trained as a human geneticist to MSc level, I was led to STS by curiosity about the human and social questions raised by genetics and biotechnology. I returned to university in 2008 to study for an MSc in Science, Technology, Medicine and Society at the London Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

My previous research was concerned with tracking the relationship between the evolving legal definition of human admixed embryos and their acceptability to members of the British Parliament during the debates around the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008). A summary of this work can be found here. It was awarded the Friends of the Wellcome Library Prize for Best LCHSTM MSc Dissertation in 2009 (ex aequo).

I have some practical experience of genetics lab work. Office-based posts have included a research assistant/communications officer role at the London IDEAS Genetics Knowledge Park and data management at the MRC's Clinical Trials Unit. I have over 2 years' experience with public engagement in a museum context. As a teenager I volunteered at a palaeontology museum, taking part in field and laboratory work.

Relevant Links

Related to plant genetic diversity and gene banking

Agrobiodiversity Weblog

CGIAR (previously Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research)

Global Crop Diversity Trust

Food and Agriculture Organisation Comission on Plant Genetic Resources

First Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (adopted 1996)

Second Global Plan of Action (adopted 2011)

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (entry into force 29.06.2004)

First FAO Report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources (published 1996)

Second FAO Report on the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources (published 2010)

FAO World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (WIEWS)


In Pursuit of the Future

Locating Technoscience Reader

Long Now Foundation