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Tess Doezema

SFIS HSD student Tess Doezema’s research looks at how scientists and policy makers contribute to shaping the idea of the bioeconomy – the economic activity coming out of biotechnological research and the move toward bio-based fuel solutions. “The bioeconomy,” says Doezema, “positions scientists as producers not solely of biological knowledge, but as contributors to the creation of a set of market formations, in a way that renders particular economic imperatives central to research framing, planning and evaluation.” Doezema is determined to understand how the normative commitments of scientists working on development of biofuels interface with their understandings of the bioeconomy, climate change, land use, labor practices, and their role in local and global communities.

Doezema has her work cut out for her. Studying the bioeconomy means grappling with a bevy of concepts and ideas that are yet to be clearly defined. Even the loose definition for bioeconomy provided above is subject to great variation across local, national and international institutions. In fact, “understanding how it is defined and discussed and turned into a basis for action in the present” makes up a crucial part of Doezema’s research. What is suggested is that the future, particularly the economic future, will in large part be shaped by these as-yet interpretative concepts. It takes an agile mind like Doezema’s to begin to understand how scientists will contribute to the formation of new markets and how research trajectories and possible technological futures are shaped in the process.

The work has already garnered attention from the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) who invited Doezema to present at their annual meeting in Denver in November of 2015. Doezema also presented her work at the 6th Annual Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference at the University of Kentucky. In January 2016, Doezema returned from 7 months in Brazil spent conducting research funded by a USAID research innovation fellowship. She is now engaged in writing up that field research, which dealt with “sociotechnical imaginaries” – collectively held and publicly performed visions of desirable futures – and innovation in biofuels. Meanwhile, she finds time to continue research on AquaAdvantage salmon and the US bioeconomy.

The ability to be flexible and interdisciplinary in directing her research efforts is something Doezema thinks is quite unique to SFIS’s HSD program. “The HSD program is great,” she says. “It allows for amazing flexibility and creativity in how students want to direct their course of study and research. With a wealth of resources and a lack of rigidity, HSD allows graduate students to shape their research, reading and teaching experiences in interesting and individually appropriate ways.”

Doezema expects to reach completion of the program in Spring 2019.