Alessandro Delfanti, Biohackers. The politics of open science. London: Pluto Press, 2013

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biohackersBiohackers explores fundamental changes occuring in the circulation and ownership of scientific information. Alessandro Delfanti argues that the combination of the ethos of 20th century science, the hacker movement and the free software movement is producing an open science culture which redefines the relationship between researchers, scientific institutions and commercial companies. Biohackers looks at the emergence of the citizen biology community ‘DIYbio’, the shift to open access by the American biologist Craig Venter and the rebellion of the Italian virologist Ilaria Capua against WHO data-sharing policies. Delfanti argues that these biologists and many others are involved in a transformation of both life sciences and information systems, using open access tools and claiming independence from both academic and corporate institutions.

Hacking, most often associated with the realm of bits and bytes, is now firmly entrenched in the world of biology. Alessandro Delfanti provides the definitive account covering the early, formative history of bio-hackers, a motley cohort of scientists, entrepreneurs, and amateur tinkers who are insisting on openness for their scientific enterprise.Written with nuance and precision, Delfanti examines key actors who drew inspiration from long-standing scientific norms and the philosophy of free software in order to re-imagine and reconstitute their ethos so as to be built upon openness and access. While this story is still unfolding, Delfanti’s engrossing account provides a vital road map essential to understand the past, present, and future of bio-hacking

Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy,McGill University and author of Coding Freedom: The Aesthetics and the Ethics of Hacking (2012)

Alessandro Delfanti’s book is a deft and accessible introduction to the changing face of science in the new century. He brings a journalist’s skill, a scientist’s skepticism and an activist’s passion to the question of open science today. The work offers an expert analysis of the global politics of big science and the details and pleasures, the successes and failures, of small-scale amateur and DIY biology. From the lucid writing emerges the story of a new ethic of sharing and decoding life – whether viewed under the microscope or lived out in hackerspaces and garage labs

Christopher Kelty, Associate Professor of Information Studies and Anthropology, Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA

The biohackers are here. In this fascinating book, Alessandro Delfanti shows us how a new generation of scientists is breaking open the study of biology with the kinds of countercultural tools first used to hack the computer. Thanks to their work, science may never be the same again

Fred Turner, Associate Professor of Communication, Stanford University


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Biohackers is released under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY/NC/ND license