“Bringing Science to Society”: Influencing Public Engagement with Bioethics
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of the West of Scotland
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Applied Ethics
Summary of the impact
Professor Andy Miah's research on the ethics of human enhancement has
transformed the working
lives of three principal professional communities: curators of UK flagship
festivals and exhibitions
(Abandon Normal Devices festival, the Wellcome Trust, Edinburgh
International Science Festival);
journalists (coverage on doping); and politicians and civil servants
working on technology policy
(European Parliament, World Anti-Doping Agency). His pioneering research
has led to the creation
of new artistic work, shaped policy directions, contributed to public
engagement with bioethics, and
advanced debate on the ethics of digital and biological technology.
Between 2002 and 2013 Andy Miah (appointed 2002-present) studied the
ethical implications of
using biotechnology within elite sports, supported by such organisations
as the British Academy,
Hastings Center (New York), and Carnegie Trust. This involved
collaboration with the British
Government Select Committee on Science & Technology (2006-7), World
(2002-7), Australian Institute of Sport (2003-5), Australian Law Reform
Commission (2002-3), UK
Sport (2004), and researchers from Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne,
University, UCL, and Oxford University. His early analyses focused on
genetic technology, which
led to Miah's Co-Editorship of the special edition of the peer-reviewed
journal, Research in Philosophy and Technology .
This work framed his subsequent groundbreaking publications on a) gene
doping, b) bio-digital
culture & posthumanism, and c) public engagement with science. Miah's
research across these
areas shapes his approach to developing research impact and directs the
substance of the
impacts. Overall, Miah's body of research connecting science with
bioethics has been crucial in
debates on the ethical and cultural dimensions of human enhancement.
Miah's impact is driven by
his insights into the future use of technology for human enhancement and
he is a highly-sought
after commentator in this area.
a) Gene Doping research
With support from The Hastings Center (New York) and the Carnegie Trust,
Miah led the
pioneering study `Genetically Modified Athletes' (2004) . This
research took place at the height
of public debate on the ethics of the human genome project. It
interrogated anxieties about gene
doping, the values associated with life and health extension, and the
wider ethics of human
enhancement. The research drew from an eclectic range of literature and
was reviewed favourably
in such journals as The Lancet, Yale J Public Health, and
Sociology of Sport Journal. These
investigations led to additional research on the wider utilisation of
biotechnology for non-therapeutic
purposes, such as cosmetic or functional enhancements . He
appeared on BBC
Newsnight in 2004 and 2012 to present these insights.
b) Bio-Digital Culture & Posthumanism
Miah's research also explored ethical concerns surrounding the
biological-digital interface, just
when technology at the nanoscale began to produce applications that could
be used to treat illness
or even enhance humans. He examined shifts in how healthcare providers
might seek digital
solutions. His findings are captured in the publication titled `The
Medicalization of Cyberspace' ,
which was the first monograph to deal extensively with this subject,
offering a critical analysis of
how an overreliance on digital solutions might create a number of
challenges. This work also
outlined how such technology changes what it is to be human by distorting
concepts, such as health, merit, value, species categories, and
inter-personal relationships .
c) Advancing public engagement
Overall, Miah's research has brought academia closer to society and his
published work advances
methodological debates about how best to undertake public engagement with
research informs how he approached the impact collaborations specified in
this case study.
Furthermore, his published work evidences the integration of research and
around impact .
References to the research
1. Miah and Eassom 2002 Sport Technology, History, Philosophy and Policy,
Philosophy and Technology, Elsevier.
2. Miah, A. (2004). Genetically Modified Athletes: Biomedical Ethics,
Gene Doping & Sport
(Ethics & Sport). Routledge.
This book was reviewed favourably in such international refereed journals
as: The Lancet,
Genomics, Society & Policy, Journal of Sport Science & Medicine,
Sociology of Sport Journal, and
the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport.
Renowned political scientist Professor
Francis Fukuyama described the research as showing `how our existing
framework for dealing with
the problem of sports doping is inadequate on both practical and ethical
grounds'. In 2008, Brazil's
Phorte published a Portuguese translation. Miah has given over 30
keynotes over this REF cycle
on this topic.
4. Miah, A. & Rich, E. (2008) The Medicalization of Cyberspace.
London & New York,
Pioneering posthuman scholar N. Katherine Hayles described this book as "a
comprehensive consideration of how the Internet and web are impacting
communication between experts and patients, the construction of the
posthuman body, and many
other pressing issues" (2008). Reviews in international journals
• Body & Society, SAGE: `a valuable and entertaining work.... No
professionals, in particular, will benefit from the way Miah and Rich
manage and present
the complexity of medicalization and its implications.'
• New England Journal of Medicine: `Andy Miah and Emma Rich have
cyberspace fascinating narratives about topics such as the persistent
sex- ual arousal
syndrome, the Visible Human Project, the controversy about an online
auction for a human
kidney (which never actually happened), suicide chat rooms, and the
nervosa (Pro-Ana) movement'
• New Media & Society: `a foundation on which future scholars can
explore in more detail the
ways in which cyberspace is influencing discourse and action in a range
of areas related to
bodies and health'
• Surveillance & Society: `an insightful and provocative book
5. Miah, A. (2008) A Critical History of Posthumanism, in Chadwick, R.
& Gordijn, B. Medical
Enhancements and Posthumanity, Springer pp.71-94. The readership of this
beyond Unit 36, bringing critical and cultural theory to scholars of
medical humanities and
6. Miah, A. (2005). Genetics, Cyberspace & Bioethics: Why Not a
Public Engagement with
Ethics? Public Understanding of Science, 14(4), 409-421. doi:
This article is the first to develop ideas around `public bioethics' and
specify the potential of
new media to advance public engagement agendas.
Note: Copies of all publications available from the HEI on request.
Details of the impact
Creating cultural capital, driving public engagement, shaping
Miah's research has inspired, informed and changed the working practices
of many art/science
festivals around the UK which, in turn, have created new exhibits and
innovative events based on
Miah's observations and philosophical questioning. These creative
productions have consequently
stimulated public discourse on issues facing society, highlights of which
a) Developing an international art/science festival
Since 2008, Miah has held a Fellowship at the Foundation for Art and
(FACT) in Liverpool at which its CEO indicates Miah "made a
significant contribution to the
organisation" [A]. During his time, his research [2, 3, 4]
transformed an artist-led
programme called `Human Futures', which received £20k investment in
and production. Miah's research on human enhancement [2-5] influenced the
the Abandon Normal Devices festival, which received £750,000 from the
from 2009-2012 (for which FACT was co-founding organisation). It involved
reached 250,000 active audience members and 740,000 ambient audience
Miah's research on bioethics and elite sport led the London 2012 Creative
the North West to develop a vision around this subject [C],
informed by Miah's publications
on bio-digital futures [2-4]. Miah curated exhibitions, identified new
work for commissions,
and programmed 12 public debates over 3 years of the festival. The
festival Director states:
"Prof Andy Miah has been a central part of the programme development
2009....supporting the development of commissions and debates, which
have in turn made
it easier for the festival to attract a diverse mix of audiences....Andy
has also developed the
salon, debate strand, which have been a central public engagement
together the festival research questions between 2009-2012." [C]
The festival explores the
ethics of science and technology and attracted interest by many press
Wired, BBC, Vogue and Culture Show. The evaluation report calculates an
impact of over £3 million [C].
b) Shaping major exhibitions
In 2012 Miah's research [1-2] led to collaboration with The Wellcome
Trust to develop its
`Superhuman' exhibition. Miah's specially commissioned article featured
prominently in the
gallery guide (distributed to 10,000 visitors) and he was integrated into
the exhibition itself
(total footfall of 80,000), with over 90,000 web visits [D].
Evidence from visitor feedback
indicates how Miah's contribution influenced public opinion on the subject
enhancement. For example, one blogger wrote: "after reading Andy
Miah's essay in the
exhibition guide on enhancement in sport, I wonder if my stance is
coherent and consistent.
I haven't changed my mind, but I'm not feeling quite so sure-footed."
c) Co-producing interactive installations
Miah's research [1-2] also influenced the development of a physical,
installation called `InMotion' [E] in the National Museum of
Scotland which engaged 30,000
participants within the Edinburgh International Science Festival over 17
days to explore
issues around elite sports.
During 2009-2010, Miah's research [3-4] influenced a European Parliament
inquiry on human
enhancement, following his participation on an earlier European Commission
FP6 Science and
Society Coordination Action project on the ethics of nanobiotechnology for
Miah's research is cited in the report produced for the DG for Internal
Policies on Economic and
Scientific Policy, Science and Technology Options Assessment [F].
He is presently part of a select
research community on a European Commission project titled `Digital
Futures 2050' which is
`horizon scanning' to identify new policy issues arising from technologies
currently still under
Public discourse — science and technology journalism
Miah's controversial perspective on the merit of human enhancement has
widely shaped public
debate, creating a significant media impact over 2008-2013, generating in
excess of 100 clippings
[G]. He has written for the Washington Post (2008) and holds
contributor roles with the Guardian
(2009-10), Huffington Post (2008-) and Metro Newspapers (2012-) and has
appeared on media in
over 25 countries.
Stimulating creative public engagement
Miah's wider influence on projects associated with his research output
include being selected as a
judge in the Debating Matters [H] national competition on ethical
issues, source materials of which
included Miah's research outputs . Also in 2012, Miah's research [1-2,
4] provided advice for a
theatrical co-production called `Seeking Perfection' on ethics and human
partnership between universities, the Manchester Science Festival and
Contact Theatre was
inspired by Miah's explorations of human enhancement [2-3] This production
won a European
award for public engagement in 2011 [H]. Professor Miah also has
worked with bioartists and
biodesigners on developing new work [I].
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. Testimonial from CEO, Foundation for Art & Creative
B. Testimonial from Abandon Normal Devices festival Director
C. Testimonial from London 2012 Creative Programme and Body &
consultation Report for North West Cultural Olympiad.
D. Wellcome Trust (2012) Superhuman exhibition evidence of impact
installation Miah was involved with, educational resources, exhibition
guide where Miah's
essay is published, web analytics, and press clippings overview).
E. InMotion science communication installation for Edinburgh
International Science Festival
(images, technical details and email trail of impact).
F. STOA (2009) Enhancement Report, European Parliament
pp41, 45. (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/stoa/default_en.htm).
This documents Miah's
impact in policy making, as a document that informs all European Union
G. Newspaper Clippings Summary of impact in the media.
H. Evidence from Debating Matters and Seeking Perfection,
indicating Miah's role.
I. Evidence from individual designer. (2010) Genetic Heirloom,