Advisory Board Meeting and Second Phase of Project

First Advisory Board meeting

The TRANSGENE team presented its first findings to an Advisory Board comprised by Stephen Hilgartner (Cornell University), Robert Bud (Science Museum, London), Michel Morange (University Paris 6 and Ecole Normale Superieure), Abigail Woods (King’s College, London) and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin). The Board members travelled to Edinburgh, with the only exception of Rheinberger, who gave remote advice. During the first day of the meeting, on 13th July 2017, they listened to presentations by Miguel García-Sancho, James Lowe, Giuditta Parolini and Mark Wong, and the discussions focused on each individual strand of the project – human, yeast and pig genomes, as well as quantitative data-gathering work. During the second day, the Board members gave recommendations on how to better integrate the strands in the face of the next collaborative phase of the project, starting in October 2017.

Much of the Board’s advice focused on the multiple definitions of ‘translation’ and ways to better address this overarching concept in our project. We also explored the possibility of connecting our narrative to broader histories of science funding and management, starting with Vannevar Bush’s post-World War II model and addressing the neoliberal shift of R&D policies in the 1970s and 80s. A more nuanced characterisation of the organisation of genomic science, overcoming the extreme categories of top-down and bottom-down, was also proposed.

Second phase of the project starts

On 1st October 2017, the TRANSGENE project officially entered into its second phase, marked by the collaborative analysis of the evidence we have compiled during its first year of life. The immediate consequence of this is the growth of the team, which now includes three collaborators: Ann Bruce and Niki Vermeulen – both based in our home department, Science, Technology and Innovation Studies – and Gil Viry – based in the Department of Sociology of the University of Edinburgh. Vermeulen and Bruce’s expertise lies in qualitative sociology of science, the former studying collaboration in biology and the latter exploring knowledge exchange networks around agricultural innovation. Viry is an expert in quantitative social network analysis.

The objective of this second phase is using the collaborator’s knowledge to shed new light into the archival materials and bibliometric data that the core members of the TRANSGENE team – Miguel García-Sancho, James Lowe, Giuditta Parolini and Mark Wong – have compiled during the last 12 months. To do this, the extended team will regularly meet to review the network visualisations of human, yeast and pig genome sequencing that Wong has prepared with the help of Viry. These networks document the evolution of individual scientists and institutions involved in DNA sequence submission from the origins of each genomic initiative in the 1980s to their conclusion 15 to 20 years afterwards.

After this initial analysis, the historians in charge of each strand of the project will provide qualitative evidence addressing the continuities and changes that have been detected in the human, yeast and pig genome networks. This evidence will depend on the nature of the network patterns and may be integrated by archival materials – correspondence, funding applications, laboratory notebooks – research papers or secondary literature. The objective is to document why a particular cluster of scientists or laboratories has a relevant role in the network at some point or, in other words, why the centrality of these actors either increases or decreases over time.

The collaboration will last until September 2019 and its results will be presented at an international workshop we will organise at the beginning of that year. We also expect to produce a collection of co-authored articles as a result of this cross-disciplinary analysis.

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