CE26 - Innovation, travail

Interventions on the human embryo: a comparative psychosocial approach Brazil | France – INTEMBRYO

Submission summary

The human embryo is currently at the center of scientific, social, political and ethical concerns. Its manipulation is a controversial issue in Brazil and France. It highlights the role of the socio-cultural and symbolic processes of medical innovation. The evolution of scientific knowledge and practices relating to interventions in the edition of human embryos is part of the concerns of social life, both nationally and internationally. However, it currently poses many problems in the family, scientific, social, political, legal and ethical spheres. It is a subject of tension and controversy that generates an arena of conflict between different systems of social representations and scientific practices. It is a relevant object to study the mobilization and circularity of different forms of knowledge. Social Representation Theory (SRT) provides a useful framework for a holistic approach to social knowledge by studying the ways in which individuals and groups think in relation to their socio-cultural backgrounds. SRT focuses on how individuals and groups make sense of the world around them by actively creating their own reality based on shared knowledge and daily communication. On this basis, we will study, comparatively, using mixed methodologies, the social construction of the human embryo editing in these two cultural contexts.
Our research program aims to analyze the role of "places" where social representations of the embryo editing are produced and updated and the impact of this knowledge on social practices. On a theoretical level, the question will be to clarify the "circularity" of scientific and social knowledge and the conditions for its updating. Supported by a multi-method approach and combining qualitative and quasi-experimental procedures, our research will consist of five complementary empirical steps: (1) literature review, in order to identify scientific debates and controversies concerning embryo editing; (2) mass media analyses, in order to investigate the sociogenesis of controversies in this area by understanding the main thematic dimensions of public debate; (3) social network analyses aimed at understanding spontaneous public reaction to embryo editing in French and Brazilian cyberspace; (4) focus groups analyses, in order to study the representations and construction of attitudes towards embryo assembly interventions in general and in socially normed situations; (5) quasi-experimental studies to analyze the sociocognitive processes involved in the formation of attitudes towards the modification of human embryos under several normative conditions. All procedures will be developed in accordance with the principles of bioethics in research involving humans.
The two main partners, the French LPS-AMU and the Brazilian LABINT-UFPE, have been collaborating for several years in the field of social representations and social psychology using multi-methodological research strategies. Participation in the INTEMBRYO consortium of GREPS-LYON 2 strengthens skills for the study of social representations and communication dynamics on such a current and controversial subject. The collaboration of these three teams makes it possible to develop the research project within an international academic network (Serge Moscovici Global Network-FMSH, Serge Moscovici Franco-Brazilian Chair) and can provide original work that will make it possible to understand the social meaning of scientific innovations in the field of biotechnologies. It will allow a detailed understanding of public acceptance or resistance to intervention for the edition of embryos. Participation in the ADES-AMU consortium will provide opportunities to discuss ethical and societal issues on embryonic biotechnology. The results of the INTEMBRYO project could make an original contribution in several scientific fields concerned with public understanding of scientific innovation and taking into account the social and bioethical implications of genetic editing.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ADES Anthropologie bio-culturelle, Droit, Ethique et Santé
UFPE Universidade Federal de Pernambuco / Laboratório de Interação Social Humana

Help of the ANR 125,421 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2019 - 36 Months

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