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Experimental Secrets

International Security, Codes, and the Future of Research

Brian Rappert

Experimental Secrets addresses an unsettling question asked in recent years about the revolutionary potential of modern biotechnology: might the knowledge being gained be used to further—rather than prevent—the spread of disease? In other words, might the life sciences become the death sciences?

To avert this prospect, many governments, science agencies, and others have proposed that researchers should subscribe to new codes of conduct. Experimental Secrets recounts five years of international efforts to devise such codes. These initiatives have raised a question of profound significance: Are there limits to what should be known or communicated in the name of security?

To convey the experiences of policy-making, Experimental Secrets offers a marked departure from traditional forms of writing. It seeks to convey a sense of what has been at stake with codes through ways of writing that question the conventions of statecraft, science, and social research. Different styles of writing, formats of texts, and points of views are mixed in an effort to convey the tensions, frustrations, and promises associated with international diplomatic efforts.

It will be of interest to those concerned with the relation between science and security as well as the possibilities for social research.

Cover: "Making the Impossible Possible." Image from the Tissue Culture & Art Project "The Pig Wings," wherein pig bone marrow stem cells were cultivated into miniature models of wings. The different wings represent the horrific (bat wing), angelic (bird wing) and obsolete (dinosaur wing). The TC&A is hosted at SymbioticA The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, The University of Western Australia.
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University Press of America
Pages: 250Size: 6 1/8 x 9
978-0-7618-4475-4 • Paperback • July 2009 • $40.99 • (£27.95)
Brian Rappert is associate professor of science, technology, and public affairs in the Department of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Exeter.
Chapter 1 Prologue: Why Read this Book?
Chapter 2 Acknowledgments
Chapter 3 Abbreviations
Chapter 4 PART I - What code?
Chapter 5 Dialogue: Absence and Presence
Chapter 6 Reflections: In Search of a Code
Chapter 7 On the Wire: Codes of Conduct as a Viral Idea
Chapter 8 Dialogue: Beginnings
Chapter 9 Concealing and Revealing: The Rule(s), the Redacted, and the Caviar
Chapter 10 Composing the Field:
Is a Code of Conduct a Good Idea?
Chapter 11 Reflections:
A Day in May
Chapter 12 PART II - Conversational Troubles
Chapter 13 Analysis of Analysis:
Decisions and Tensions
Chapter 14 A Thought Mistaken for a Memory:
Those Who Would Oppose
Chapter 15 Performances:
It's You
Chapter 16 On the Wire:
Threats, Policies, Codes - Part 1
Chapter 17 A "How to..." Guide:
Keeping a Conversation Going - Part 1
Chapter 18 On the Circuit:
Chapter 19 Concealing and Revealing:
Here, There, and Everywhere
Chapter 20 Dialogue:
Chapter 21 A Thought Mistaken for a Memory:
He Said She Said
Chapter 22 A "How to..." Guide:
Keeping a Conversation Going - Part 2
Chapter 23 On the Wire:
Research and Terrorism
Chapter 24 Auxiliary:
Chapter 25 Composing the Field:
On Becoming a Proselytizer?
Chapter 26 PART III - Come and See
Chapter 27 Auxiliary:
Interventions from the Floor
Chapter 28 Composing the Field:
What's Going On
Chapter 29 Performances:
Is Diplomacy a Lie?
Chapter 30 Analysis of Analysis:
What now, little man?
Chapter 31 A "How to..." Guide:
Keeping a Conversation Going - Part 3
Chapter 32 Auxiliary:
Chapter 33 Reflections:
Codes as Building? Analysts as Building?
Chapter 34 Composing the Field:
What Does It Mean?
Chapter 35 Concealing and Revealing:
In Silence
Chapter 36 PART IV - Commitments
Chapter 37 A Thought Mistaken For a Memory:
Chapter 38 On the Wire:
Threats, Policies, Codes - Part 2
Chapter 39 Analysis of Analysis:
Chapter 40 On the Circuit:
Noise/Signal Radio
Chapter 41 Auxiliary:
Killing a Code Softly
Chapter 42 Analysis of Analysis:
Cautionary Notes on "What Is It?"
Chapter 43 Composing the Field:
Chapter 44 Performances:
Provocation and Wolves
Chapter 45 Reflections:
Pessimism and the Sun
Chapter 46 A "How to..." Guide:
Keeping a Conversation Going - Part 4
Chapter 47 Composing the Field:
The Event?
Chapter 48 PART V - Endings
Chapter 49 A Thought Mistaken for a Memory:
Newcomer Lessons
Chapter 50 Concealing and Revealing:
Secrets and Trust in/of/for/to Networks
Chapter 51 On the Circuit:
Keys and Codes
Chapter 52 Analysis of Analysis:
Chapter 53 Auxiliary:
Journey as a Destination
Chapter 54 Index
Very distinctive and original in its mixture of narrative, storytelling, and abstract theorizing. A fascinating read that follows bio-security policy making from behind the scenes through the interactions of academics, scientists and policy makers that accentuates the multiple worlds of policy making. It is extremely relevant today as it addresses issues that are happening in secret or outside the public eyes and ears that have the potential to impact every global citizen.
W. K. Bauchspies, associate professor, sociology of science, Georgia Institute of Technology

Dr. Rappert is the antithesis of an academic looking from the outside in. Experimental Secrets is a compelling and hilarious account of Rappert's first-hand engagement with the world of biological weapons negotiations and how the people and institutions doing them develop meaning, knowledge and, on that basis, courses of action. It should be required reading for anyone engaged in weapons negotiations, or for that matter, any negotiations.
Thomas Nash, coordinator of the Cluster Munitions Coalition