The Promissory Visions of DIYbio: Reimaging Science from the Fringe

Sonja Erikainen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent years have seen a proliferation of do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio) initiatives, consisting of people undertaking a range of bioscience activities outside traditional research environments. DIYbio initiatives, while diverse, exist at the fringes of institutionalised science, which enables them to advance different promissory visions about what science, especially bioscience, could or should become in the future, including how it should be governed. These visions reconfigure conventional delineations of science in politically and normatively loaded ways that can simultaneously reaffirm, contest, and shift the traditional epistemic foundations of science. They put forth alternative science futures in ways that highlight the performative force of promissory visions in shaping not only mainstream but also fringe science activity. DIYbio offers a fruitful lens for understanding how science is currently being reconfigured by unconventional actors to encompass new meanings and domains. It offers a different angle on the wider sociology of expectations engagement with the future as an analytical object, by showing how the future of science is constructed and managed from the fringe. Yet, DIYbio initiatives' promissory visions are also embedded within neoliberal ideals of productive and entrepreneurial citizens, highlighting how the wider socio-economic context constrains the alternative futures manufactured by these initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287–310
Number of pages24
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am extremely grateful to Ellen Stewart, the anonymous reviewers of this paper, and especially the editors of Science as Culture for their useful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper, which have enabled me to significantly improve it. This research was funded by the Wellcome Trust (Grant number 209519/Z/17/Z).


  • DIYbio
  • fringe science
  • promissory visions
  • sociology of expectations


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