There is a growing popular and policy interest in the microbiome, and the possibilities of more nuanced or ‘probiotic’ ways of living with germs. To date however there has been limited public engagement with the science and technology of metagenomics .

The project engages with the growing scientific, popular and policy interest in the microbiome: the microbial life in, on and around us.

It brings together scientists and social scientists in a team that includes Jamie Lorimer, Beth Greenough, Rich Grenyer and Tim Hodgetts.

It will explore the transformative potential of recent developments in metagenomics – the sequencing of genetic material taken from the environment – for developing new public understandings of the microbiome.

Metagenomics has begun to identify extensive changes in these hitherto invisible worlds with possible implications for human health. Some, like allergy, autoimmunity and antibiotic resistance, have been linked to the excesses of modern hygiene practices. This project identifies a growing need to develop more nuanced ways of understanding and living with germs.

Through an in-depth investigation of domestic kitchen practices and ecologies, this project will develop a collaborative and participatory model for experimenting with the domestic microbiome.

It will tailor the tools of metagenomics for public engagement, working with partner organisations to explore the potential of this new technology for engaging people in the governance of kitchen hygiene. 

The participatory model on offer here has great potential for future transformative research into the microbiomes of further elements of the built environment (e.g. hospitals, schools, money, transport infrastructure) as well as the intimate spaces of the human body, like the gut.