March 26, 2019
Emily Marden, J.D.
Research Associate, UBC Faculty of Law and Department of Botany
What social issue does your research attempt to address?
My current research focuses on the intersection of legal frameworks governing access and use of genetic resources with plant genomics research. I address ambiguities in the application of these frameworks to plant genomics research, and work toward a potential resolution that facilitates interests amongst interested communities.
What drew you to this area of research?
I was originally trained in the life sciences and have always had a strong interest in research and its potential applications. Over time I became increasingly fascinated by the interplay between science and society and turned to the study of the history and philosophy of science. It became clear to me that not only does society impact research questions, but those questions, in turn, can shape our social practices and expectations. Following my work in the life sciences and in history, I turned to law. I found that regulatory law provides a powerful platform to understand and shape the manner in which science is integrated into society. I find the work on plant genomics issues particularly compelling because the potential for innovation and large-scale social benefit is extremely significant as we collectively face climate change. In short, I think it’s enormously beneficial to draw on different disciplinary viewpoints.
What benefits do social sciences bring to genomics research?
The social sciences can inform the shape and scope of scientific research questions to facilitate benefits to society, and to shape acceptance and use of intended research outputs. For example, in the plant genomics arena, it is critical to analyse not only the potentially applicable regulatory frameworks, as well as the potential impacts of international treaties on genetic sequence data. These legal regimes can have an outsize impact on how and whether innovative research programs can achieve their stated goals. I believe that the dialogue between scientific researchers and social scientists deepens understanding on both sides and enriches the larger community in the process.
As someone living and working in British Columbia, what is your favorite thing to do or place to go?
That’s difficult to answer because there are so many wonderful things to do in BC! I love to ski with my family in winter, and am an avid outdoor swimmer in summer. Kits Pool is really one of the great marvels of west coast living – I only wish it were open year-round! In addition, the diversity of BC means that there are always interesting people to meet, performances to attend, and food to eat.
What’s on the top of your ‘Bucket List’ right now?
I don’t know that there is ever a “top” of the list, but rather too many things I want to pursue! Right now, I am happy to have reengaged my passion for playing chamber music. I’ve been lucky to live in different cities and cultures and each year we try to travel to different place, and usually rent a flat in a major urban setting to get a feel of the place.
About Genomics and Society
Genome BC has taken a leadership role in exploring the societal aspects of genomics research. One way we do this is through supporting genomics-related social science and humanities research. This area of research doesn’t just focus on genomic impacts on society once the scientific research is complete . Through collaboration, it also aims to inform on the societal dimension of scientific research questions, research design and funding allocation. This can help genomics research produce social benefits and achieve public value. In the context of Canada’s Genomics Enterprise, this research is referred to as ‘GE3Ls – Genomics and its Environmental, Economic, Ethical, Legal and Social aspects and is distinct from the anticipated socio-economic benefits of the project itself. Learn more about Genomics and Society here.