The 1st annual symposium of the DK-UK Postgraduate Forum on Bio-studies took place at BIOS Research Centre for the study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society, London School of Economics, 17-18 November 2005:

The first day the organizers, Anette V.B. Jensen, Nete Schwennesen and Ayo Wahlberg, took us on a tour to several history of science&medicine/science studies centers, like BIOS, the Wellcome Trust Center and the History of Science, Technology and Medicine unit at Imperial College including library tours and meetings. At the Welcome Trust we were received by Hal Cook, Roger Cooter, Tilley Tansey, Helga Satzinger and others – and PhD students Stephen Casper and Richard Barnett introduced us in words and images to the history of the Centre and to the history of disease in London. The Wellcome Trust Center’s Library (which is fantastic) offers some new web-based databases which might be interesting to the museum context such as an image collection, the Bioethics Web and the Psci-com – those are sites for “high-quality internet resources” on biomedical ethics, and science communication/public engagement with science, respectively.
At the Imperial College Professor David Edgerton gave a talk on the history of the college, and Miguel García-Sancho took us around the building – to PhD office and library. The Imperial College Library boasts among other things of a comprehensive collection of biographies.

The second day started with lectures by Uffe Juul Jensen (Professor, Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas, Aarhus University) and Nikolas Rose (Professor, Department of Sociology and director of Bios) on interdisciplinarity, comparative studies and collaboration between philosophy/social sciences and the biosciences. The lecture by Uffe Jul Jensen focused on the history of collaboration between philosophers and clinicians in Denmark (including disputes between critical theory and biology). From the background of governmentality studies, Nikolas Rose proposed to examine problem formations in different contexts as an issue for comparative studies. The discussion touched upon issues like the new regimes of objectivity that are established in biomedicine, the agendas with which social scientists enter bio-fields, scandals in the collaboration between social science and bioscience, ‘ethics of interdisciplinarity’, the issue of complicity and going native, as well as on the existence of common explanatory models in both social and biological sciences since the 19th century.

Five presentations by PhD-students and Postdocs covered a wide range of topics within biostudies:

Lars Thorup Larsen, Department of Political Science, Århus University gave a talk titled ‘The Truth will set you free’ – a genealogy of public health policy in Denmark and the United States 1975-2005. He examined public health programmes as epistemologies of a circular logic driven by experiences of failure and loss of control which establish ‘protective belts’ to handle this constant failure.

Susanne Bauer (Medical Museion, Copenhagen) talked about ‘Laboratories of the population’: approaching cancer epidemiology in Denmark. This presentation traced the information networks of a breast cancer study and examined epidemiologic data mining as a practice that converts population data into a quasi-experimental ressource for knowledge production.

Anne Hatting (Department of Social Sciences, Roskilde University) presented an ethnographically inspired study Action and meaning during implementation of accreditation systems which examines the new order of the hospital: Looking for boundary objects, she explored the relationship between existing and new classification systems with the implementation of accrediation systems as a management tool in Danish hospitals.

Miguel García-Sancho (Center for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Imperial College London) presented on Technologies for reading: The influence of the information concept in Fred Sanger’s sequencing methods for insulin and nucleic acids (1943-1977) where he examined how, for the case of Sanger, the researcher’s view of the genetic material as a text shaped the conjugation of the biochemical instruments he employed.

Hanne Jessen (Medical Museion, Copenhagen) presented an outline of a study on Cultural, social and technological human-animal interplay in biomedical science: An ethnographic study of the laboratory minipig in which she explores the uses and meanings of ‘scientific animals’ and how they can be represented in a museological context.

Overall, it was good to get an overview on biostudies in London with a lot of opportunities for informal conversations at the centers. It will be valuable to learn more about the participants’ research projects in future meetings.

The participants agreed to continue the Postgraduate Forum (perhaps as a UK-Scandinavia forum) and to arrange a second symposium in Copenhagen in a years time. Nete Schwennesen, Susanne Bauer and Hanne Jessen will gather in the beginning of 2006 to discuss the format of the next meeting and settle for a date.

Hanne and Susanne

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