An institutional film made by Thomson Reuters* entitled “The Innovation Lifecycle” exhibits a linear sequence of discourses of a “patient”, a “research scientist”, a “R&D specialist”, a “drug developer” and an “intellectual property attorney”. The patient starts by showing a pill that “saved [her] life”. She then quickly poses the question, “before it was a pill, what was it?” The drug developer comes in to explain that “the pill was an idea” he had when he studied the saliva of a frog from the Amazon. The rest of the film rapidly presents the drug developer and the other professionals as performing linearly organized very well defined specialized functions that go from an idea to a successful product in the market. In the end, the patient comes back and stresses that the delivering of the pill saved her life. The short film is a perfectly finished piece of communication that elevates the usefulness of science and technology to its highest point. At first sight, one who watches the film would be in pain to be critical of such a way of creating knowledge. In fact, on a few occasions Brazilian students watched the film in classroom, their first reaction was uncritical admiration, confirmation and reinforcement of the marvels of scientific creativity in general In contrast, this paper draws on the “sociology of translation” to make a critical assessment of the film. First, the film presents the development of a scientific and technological artifact, the pill, as attached to a strictly rational, planned, linear process that proceeds from one stage to the next. This vision of scientific development has proved to be false by a whole range of “laboratory studies” since the late 1970s. Second, and more importantly, the film makes use of a hypothetical case where it is easy to popularize (the benefits of) science and technology to subtly popularize a world of enforced intellectual properties rights. This paper shows several translations enacted by the film, such as the study of the saliva of a frog translated into the salvation of millions of lives. But, the most important translation, which is subtly embedded in the film, is the one that translates the possibility of scientific development into enforcement of intellectual property rights: “we developed the idea into a drug … at the same time we needed a patent”. * 2 minutes film to be shown during session.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

At the same time, we needed a patent

Ivan Marques   HCTE / Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

An institutional film made by Thomson Reuters* entitled “The Innovation Lifecycle” exhibits a linear sequence of discourses of a “patient”, a “research scientist”, a “R&D specialist”, a “drug developer” and an “intellectual property attorney”. The patient starts by showing a pill that “saved [her] life”. She then quickly poses the question, “before it was a pill, what was it?” The drug developer comes in to explain that “the pill was an idea” he had when he studied the saliva of a frog from the Amazon. The rest of the film rapidly presents the drug developer and the other professionals as performing linearly organized very well defined specialized functions that go from an idea to a successful product in the market. In the end, the patient comes back and stresses that the delivering of the pill saved her life. The short film is a perfectly finished piece of communication that elevates the usefulness of science and technology to its highest point. At first sight, one who watches the film would be in pain to be critical of such a way of creating knowledge. In fact, on a few occasions Brazilian students watched the film in classroom, their first reaction was uncritical admiration, confirmation and reinforcement of the marvels of scientific creativity in general In contrast, this paper draws on the “sociology of translation” to make a critical assessment of the film. First, the film presents the development of a scientific and technological artifact, the pill, as attached to a strictly rational, planned, linear process that proceeds from one stage to the next. This vision of scientific development has proved to be false by a whole range of “laboratory studies” since the late 1970s. Second, and more importantly, the film makes use of a hypothetical case where it is easy to popularize (the benefits of) science and technology to subtly popularize a world of enforced intellectual properties rights. This paper shows several translations enacted by the film, such as the study of the saliva of a frog translated into the salvation of millions of lives. But, the most important translation, which is subtly embedded in the film, is the one that translates the possibility of scientific development into enforcement of intellectual property rights: “we developed the idea into a drug … at the same time we needed a patent”. * 2 minutes film to be shown during session.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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