|When||Time||Description||Add to your calendar|
|18 February 2013||3:30||Egenis Seminar with Professor Julie Kent (University of the West of England). Full details|| Add event|
|11 March 2013||15:30||Professor Barnes, formerly co-director of Egenis, is known for his pioneering work on the sociological study of knowledge generation and evaluation in science. Full details|| Add event|
|18 March 2013||15:30||Professor Holger Maehle is Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease, Durham University. Full details|| Add event|
|20 May 2013||15:30||Egenis seminar with Dr Javier Lezaun. Full details|| Add event|
|23 May 2013||13:00||Speaker: Sahotra Sarkar (University of Texas at Austin). Full details|| Add event|
|14 October 2013||15:00||Egenis Seminar: Human conflict with other-than-human animals (henceforth animals) is a regular occurrence where species meet and compete for access to resources (Knight 2005). This paper focuses on a specific example of inter-species conflict; that which occurs between humans and Chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) on South Africas Cape Peninsula. While baboons are widely regarded by locals and wildlife managers as part of South Africas wildlife heritage, the conservation of these animals is controversial because they are not classified as an endangered species. Moreover, their ability to adapt to increased urbanization through, amongst other techniques, the exploitation of non-traditional foodstuffs appropriated from their human neighbours, places them in often mortal danger of retributive attacks they have, quite literally, become victims of their own success.. Full details|| Add event|
|18 October 2013||19:00|| Full details|| Add event|
|11 November 2013||15:00||This paper explores the relationship between scientific responsibility and nonhuman contributions to agency in experimental practices. Full details|| Add event|
|25 November 2013||15:00||How are we to practically engage with distributed information infrastructures in order to address questions of form, design, and creativity?. Full details|| Add event|
|12 - 13 December 2013||14:00||This workshop brings together biologists, social scientists and philosophers to explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the recent RCUK policy on Open Access. We will discuss the impact of Open Access mandates on scientific practice and the ways in which they foster research and innovation, particularly in the fields of systems and synthetic biology.. Full details|| Add event|
|16 December 2013||14:00||Part of the HASS-funded project Symbiology Lab: The Arts of Living Together the workshop is the first in a series of events to address questions of form, design, and creativity in the applied biosciences, and to contribute to new ways of thinking about and engaging with the interface between culture and nature in the postgenomic age. Full details|| Add event|
|20 January 2014||15:00||Process metaphysics is a species of metaphysical view according to which the most fundamental entities in the natural universe are processes rather than things or substances. While a minority view in the history of metaphysics, it has enjoyed supporters from Heraclitus to Whitehead, its most frequently cited 20th century advocate. Whiteheads own view, influential though it has been, chiefly in North America, is in fact somewhat eccentric in its understanding of the term process. Process metaphysics has made something of a comeback in recent years under the names perdurantism and four-dimensionalism. In this talk I will consider reasons from science and philosophy for and against subscribing to the priority of processes, finding some good and some less so, and concluding with an argument to the effect that, while processes are arguably the fundamental entities, there is a further layer of metaphysical ultimates below that of processes. Full details|| Add event|
|28 January 2014||16:00||This talk will consider the history of a few techniques used to modify the genes and chromosomes of agricultural and horticultural plants in the mid-twentieth century. These include exposure to radiation from x-rays and radioisotopes and the application of chemical mutagens.. Full details|| Add event|
|10 February 2014||15:00||I will discuss how extensive research and collaboration with the Natural History Museum and Imperial College has developed the concept and practice of Isomorphology. A methodology which incorporates both artistic and scientific methods, Isomorphology reaches beyond conventional scientific understanding, and critiques the contemporary system of scientific order. I will discuss the creative possibilities of Isomorphology in both artistic and scientific contexts. Full details|| Add event|
|6 March 2014||10:00||This workshop will briefly review the various understandings of epigenetics and review the designs used to assess epigenetic evidence, and whether the claims made about this new field are reasonable.We are also interested in asking questions about the social and philosophical implications of Epigenetics and this workshop is designed to be a platform to discuss what these might be. Full details|| Add event|
|31 March 2014||15:00||CANCELLED (20/3/14).We hope to reschedule this seminar for the next academic year. Full details|| Add event|
|10 April 2014||This workshop will seek to understand the spaces and places associated with alternative ways of thinking about immunology. We seek to bring together, scientific, social theoretical, artistic and wider public experiments with understandings of immunological relations to encourage on-going and inventive exchange about these new species, sites and spaces of immunology. The workshop follows a seminar by Warwick Anderson in Building One. For further details and programme please see attachment. Full details|| Add event|
|10 April 2014||12:00||This open seminar is part of a meeting on 'Immunitary Geographies', jointly organised by the Departments of Geography, History and Sociology, Politics and Anthropology and will be followed by a small workshop at Byrne House 'Topologies of Immunity' with further papers and more opportunity for discussion. Full details|| Add event|
|10 - 11 April 2014||13:00||The aim of this two day workshop is to bring together leading nanomedicine researchers and scholars from the Science and Technology Studies to reflect and discuss the past, present and future of nanomedicine. Full details|| Add event|
|6 May 2014||14:00||This Paper explores the complicated manners in which animal wellbeing is constructed and pursued in contemporary wildlife conservation. Using insights from Foucault's work on biopolitics to examine turtle conservation in India, it offers an account of conservation as population politics, questioning the entanglement of harm and care that infuses this space of more-than human social change. In doing this, the paper elaborates the concept of agential subjectification in order to track the mechanisms that underlie the asymmetric circulation of biopower in human-animal interactions and to critically reflect on present-day manifestations of the 'will to improve'. Full details|| Add event|
|20 May 2014||15:00||Is a phylogenetic classification the only scientific way of putting bacteria in order?. Full details|| Add event|
|27 May 2014||15:00||Trained as a physician and well-versed in Ancient medicine, Croatian-born historian of science Mirko D. Grmek (1924-2000) was also a world reference on French physiologist Claude Bernard, a scholar on 17th and 19th century sciences of life, a leading thinker of the emergence of AIDS, and a commentator on the collapse of Yugoslavia. A member of the Resistance during the war, he directed the first Institute for the History of Medicine in Croatia before establishing himself in Paris where he worked under the guidance of Alexandre Koyre, Fernand Braudel, and Georges Canguihem, prior to becoming professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (1973-1989). Despite his scholarly achievements and international recognition - he received the Sarton Medal in 1991 - Grmek, as an intellectual figure, remains little known outside France. Focussing on his theoretical reflections deriving from his historical studies, this paper considers how these have led Grmek into an engagement with contemporary social and political problems, and examines more broadly the cultural and scientific currents that contributed in making him an influential figure in the intellectual history of science and medicine during the second half of the 20th century.. Full details|| Add event|
|2 June 2014||15:00||SPA Research / Egenis / Symbiology Lab seminar. Using the case study of IVF, this talk contrasts two models of reproduction inside-out, and outside-in to ask where and how reproduction takes place, exactly. By examining how we situate reproductivity in relation, for example, to structure, agency, organisation, discourse, or materiality, we can usefully consider the uses of this concept. Like 'the question concerning technology', with which it arguably has much in common, how we model reproductivity is at once an obvious and under-analysed question, and one that is deservedly receiving much greater attention across the disciplines. Full details|| Add event|
|2 June 2014||15:00||Using the case study of IVF, this talk contrasts two models of reproduction inside-out, and outside-in to ask where and how reproduction takes place, exactly. By examining how we situate reproductivity in relation, for example, to structure, agency, organisation, discourse, or materiality, we can usefully consider the uses of this concept. Like 'the question concerning technology', with which it arguably has much in common, how we model reproductivity is at once an obvious and under-analysed question, and one that is deservedly receiving much greater attention across the disciplines. Full details|| Add event|
|9 June 2014||15:00||A recent study out of Brazil has claimed that the global rate of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is 5.29%. Any variation in such rates in specific studies, argued the authors, was likely due to methodological problems, rather than differences in the actual distribution of the disorder. According to the authors, such findings give weight to the disorder's 'identity as a bona fide mental disorder ... as opposed to a social construction'. Such reports also strengthen the flawed notion that ADHD is a universal and essential disorder, prevalent in human populations regardless of cultural context, and consistently represented throughout history by the same characteristics.While it is true that the concept of ADHD has spread from the USA, where it emerged during the late 1950s, to most corners of the globe, as suggested by the membership of the ADHD World Federation, such superficial pronouncements mask profound differences in how ADHD has been interpreted in different countries and regions. In this paper, I will compare ADHD's emergence in a number of jurisdictions, including the USA, UK, Scandinavia, China and India, arguing that, while ADHD can be considered a global phenomenon, it remains very much a product of local historical, cultural and political factors. Full details|| Add event|
|16 June 2014||CANCELLED.. Full details|| Add event|
|23 June 2014||11:00||Recent developments in molecular biology imply that classic distinctions between nature and nurture or biology and culture are not applicable to the human ecological niche. Research in epigenetics shows that the effects of culture on nature go all the way down to the gene and up to the stratosphere, and the effects of biology on culture are similarly inextricable. Living systems almost invariably involve the interaction of many kinds of organisms with a diversity of technologies. The anthropocenethe age of human cultures and technologies interacting with natural environmentschanges rapidly, and to understand and manage its functioning requires perspectives from each domain. We propose the study of Symbiology, the post-organismic study of relation. The kinds of relations we study include mutualism, parasitism, domination, recognition, separation, solubility, symmetric mutuality (relations among equals in power or status), asymmetric mutuality (relations among unequals such as parents/offspring, teacher/pupil, human/nonhuman animals), reciprocity, alienation, isolation, autonomy, and so forth, and these relations are discernible throughout nature and all cultures. Full details|| Add event|
|8 October 2014||15:00||In this seminar, I discuss how big data or the so called rise of bigger, faster, and better technologies and ways of using data is impacting the science of metabolism. In other words, I discuss how scientific efforts to re-configure metabolism with big data are impacting understandings of cells and metabolic processes, and are also leading to new ways of intervening into health and disease. This is important in the contemporary biomedical landscape, because knowledge of metabolism is central to emerging disease interventions and medical systems, as well as to how people experience their bodies, environment, and health. Full details|| Add event|
|22 October 2014||15:00||An evolutionary approach to function and dysfunction is common in the broader philosophical literature, but it remains a minority view in the philosophy of medicine. Instead, recent work on the definition of disease has been dominated by the biostatistical view of function and dysfunction. Criticism of the biostatistical view (BST) has led its adherents to embrace increasingly complex versions designed to accommodate problem cases. The theoretical rationale for adopting and retaining with this view of dysfunction in the context of medicine has become increasingly unclear. An evolutionary approach to function in the context of medicine has many advantages over the BST. Most importantly, the strong theoretical rationale of the evolutionary approach means that, rather than assessing this account of dysfunction by asking whether it is intuitively satisfying, we can use it to improve our understanding of dysfunction and disease. We illustrate the advantages of the evolutionary approach with a life-history theory perspective on diseases of old-age. Full details|| Add event|
|27 October 2014||15:00||Scholars in Science and Technology Studies, have long noted that laboratory work produces much more than the officially recognized facts that end up in scientific publications. Investigations of local or tacit knowledges, as well as more recent calls to examine non-knowledge and processes of unknowing, draw attention to the many ways of knowing present in scientific work. This paper examines how the production of "knowledge byproducts" (a term I use to encompass the many non-privileged knowledges of ways of knowing present in the laboratory) interacts with the production of sought after scientific facts and privileged epistemic objects. Using ethnographic data from an animal behaviour genetics laboratory, I argue that (somewhat ironically) researchers end up accumulating much more knowledge about the effects of the environment on behaviour than they do about the effects of genes -- although knowledge about the interactions between animals and their environments is not explicitly valued or sought out, it accrues gradually in the laboratory through the process of working with animals and creating a controlled experimental setting. Taking the accumulation and distribution of knowledge byproducts into account helps to better understand animal behaviour genetics practitioners' stances on the certainty (or uncertainty) of their scientific findings.. Full details|| Add event|
|29 October 2014||15:00||What is the most appropriate background ontology for thinking about biological systems at different levels of organization? This paper develops the rudiments of a hierarchical process ontology inspired by some ideas of the theoretical biologist K. L. von Bertalanffy, in which biological individuals are modelled as recurrent processes stabilized across different time scales. This perspective is then contrasted with more standard object-oriented and essentialistic approaches in terms of two central issues: (1) individuation and (2) identity over time, or persistence. Full details|| Add event|
|12 November 2014||15:00||This talk presents an overview of my current book manuscript on the implications of the growing but controversial field of biomimicry. Biomimeticists bridge the biosciences with technological engineering, finding inspiration for innovation in nonhuman life forms. In doing so, I suggest that the field creates a new class of natural resources through experimentation with biological organisms, opening up new interfaces between socio-political institutions and biological systems. Among other examples, I’ll explore the study of gecko foot adhesion, which has advanced the development of commercial adhesives and inspired ‘Geckoskin,’ military gear that enables urban soldiers to scale walls. The paper works to illustrate how this and other projects remake life as a set of what I call ‘pluripotent’ capacities—capacities that can be redistributed within global networks of economic production and geopolitical security. I’ll discuss the political implications of these transformations, particularly at the changing interface between ‘life’ and ‘production.’. Full details|| Add event|
|20 - 21 November 2014||9:00||This is the first workshop for the EU grant project PROBIO organised by Professor John Dupre. http://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/sociology/research/sts/egenis/projects/aprocessontologyforcontemporarybiology/. Full details|| Add event|
|26 November 2014||15:00||The concept of canalization, coined by Waddington to illustrate the complex functioning of all developmental processes, is now subject to some neopreformationist interpretations centred on the role of the notion of cryptic genetic variability. Waddington attributed to this concept the evidence of the genetic assimilation of the acquired characters, claiming that all organisms developed specific abilities to influence their evolutionary pathways through the regulation of buffering mechanisms of genetic variability. However, the contemporary approach of biotechnology has misrepresented the original content of the concept of cryptic genetic variability, transforming its sense to a mere genetic informationism. Consequently, the heuristics value of the concept of canalization has been reduced to a static representation of an “a-contextual developmental system”, closed with respect to its environment.
The following presentation will analyze the contemporary assumptions of canalization in Molecular Biology researches with the aim to recover the original whiteheadian meaning of the concept as an open process of interaction between the organism and its environment. Full details|| Add event|
|27 November 2014||17:00||‘Bodies may indeed be everywhere in contemporary social theory, but rarely are they articulated with such feeling and conceptual rigour as in this beautiful and insightful book. The cosmopolitical approach to bodies under challenge that Schillmeier develops here looks certain to set the agenda for social approaches to embodiment for some time to come.’
Steven D. Brown, University of Leicester, UK. Full details|| Add event|
|28 - 29 November 2014||This interdisciplinary symposium, funded by Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness (FSHI) and Exeter University, aims to interrogate the implications of shifting the focus of health care away from delivery towards care as an ongoing everyday accomplishment. This symposium examines spaces of collisions, elisions or alignments of social worlds, within which the affective dimension of social life in healthcare may be fruitfully examined. Drawing upon relational concerns as a distinct and distinctive mode of sociological inquiry, the symposium seeks to develop an understanding of care and its consequences that help us get beyond the economics of care as a commodified and managed form of engagement with the other.. Full details|| Add event|
|8 December 2014||15:30||Egenis Seminar. Late addition. Full details|| Add event|
|15 - 16 December 2014||9:00||Programme attached. Full details|| Add event|
|17 - 19 December 2014||12:30||This workshop is the first event in the project DATA_SCIENCE (www.datastudies.eu ). It brings together the key participants in the project, with the aim to start long-term discussions around what constitutes data-intensive science, compare the ways in which different scholars and fields conceptualise and enact data practices, and agree on the set-up, methods and themes to be pursued by the project team and collaborators over the next four years. Speakers will be presenting the specific sciences that they are researching, the methods that they use and the themes that they are interested in exploring in the future. The workshop is meant to provide an informal occasion for discussion, and will therefore not showcase full papers except from the keynote lecture provided by Professor Luciano Floridi, which will target the intersections between philosophy of science and philosophy of information in ways that will stimulate data-related discussions.. Full details|| Add event|
|12 January 2015||15:00||Please note change in date, was 14/1/14. Nature, as Raymond Williams remarked, “is perhaps the most complex word in the language” (1976). Nevertheless, the word (as a qualifier) was used, in Canada, to create a new legal category of commodified medicines: that of ‘natural health products.’ With this change in law, regulatory scientists were mandated to segregate out medicines that would be regulated as natural health products, from those that would continue to be regulated as drugs. Needless to say, which medicines should be considered natural for the purposes of regulation was not always self-evident.. Full details|| Add event|
|28 January 2015||15:00||Egenis seminar. Full details|| Add event|
|11 February 2015||Postponed until Wednesday 25th March 2015. Full details|| Add event|
|16 February 2015||13:30||The workshop is funded by the European Research Council, through the project DATA_SCIENCE. No advance registration needed. For information, contact the workshop organisers: Sabina Leonelli (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Adam Toon (email@example.com).. Full details|| Add event|
|18 February 2015||15:00||This Egenis seminar has been postponed until Monday 23 March.
"Ethical harmonization across space: logistic and regulatory issues in implementing a multi-national clinical trial". Full details|| Add event|
|25 February 2015||15:00||Egenis seminar. Full details|| Add event|
|4 March 2015||15:00||This paper will consider two rival accounts of the relationship between causation and individuation. On both accounts, familiar individual things have a reality relative to purposes and conventions, making our everyday metaphysical presumptions matters of moral import. On one view, there are pre-conventional individuals which cause, and thus warrant, our practices of everyday individuation. On the other view, there are no such realities, and causation is itself merely conventional. Through contrasting the two views, we will assess the viability of tying individuation to causation, exploring the theoretic advantages and principle pitfalls. Full details|| Add event|
|12 March 2015||15:00||Professor Scott Gilbert, one of the leading figures in evolutionary developmental biology (eve-devo) and the pioneer of its expanded reformulation as eco-evo-devo, (see his groundbreaking book, S.F.Gilbert and D. Epel, Ecological Developmental Biology: Integrating Epigenetics, Medicine and Evolution, Sinauer 2009) will be visiting Egenis at 3.00 p.m. on Thursday March 12th, where he will give a talk entitled "Developmental symbiosis: We are all lichens". If you are interested in attending this talk, could you please contact John Dupre (J.A.Dupre@exeter.ac.uk), copying Chee Wong (S.C.Wong@exeter.ac.uk), as space will be limited.. Full details|| Add event|
|18 March 2015||15:00||The story is familiar, perhaps timeless. A middle-aged man falters. The family begins to crumble. Or the reverse: his wife is frustrated and turns away. Their children have left. The home is empty, or perhaps filled with a common sadness. No one is surprised that a marriage is over.
In 1965, this process of individual and family trauma acquired a new name. That year, a Canadian sociologist and psychoanalyst more famous for his studies of work, human capability and social justice introduced the world to the `midlife crisis’. For Elliott Jaques, the concept signified a crisis of confidence, a period of intense psychological uncertainty triggered by awareness of death and the fear of declining, or possibly too late flowering, creativity. Over subsequent decades, the meaning of the term expanded to include a variety of stereotypical features: dissatisfaction with work; disillusionment with life; a desperation to postpone the mental and physical decline associated with advancing age; shifting fashion sense; the replacement of the comfortable family saloon with a two-seater sports car or motorbike; a gradual detachment from family responsibilities; and, perhaps most catastrophically, sex with a younger, more athletic accomplice.
This paper explores two contrasting explanations for the `midlife crisis’ that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s: a continuing psychoanalytical focus on internal psychological conflict; and the growing emphasis of stress researchers on external situational factors, or `stressful life events’. Although seemingly incongruent, both approaches were rooted in the experiences and understandings of inter-war and post-war populations in terms of: demographic shifts: marital relationships; biological clocks; situational stress; and spiritual fulfilment.. Full details|| Add event|
|23 March 2015||15:00||In this talk we report findings from an empirical investigation of the process in which a stem cell clinical trial is being implemented across 10 European countries. As part of a clinical trial team, we had the unique opportunity to study implementation – including its events and problems - while it happened. Obstacles for swift patient recruitment across clinical sites arose for a variety of reasons, but most are related to the minute standardization of practice which is the basis for the scientific approach in medicine that identifies clinical trials as ultimate evidence for clinical efficacy. We identified differences in resource management and in locally entrenched daily routines of patient care, but also in the practical implementation of regulations and insurance requirements, for example, which as such relate back to specific understandings of best practice in clinical care. Our findings show that the policies developed to harmonise medical practice and clinical trials in Europe can lead to serious delays before patient recruitment even starts. We especially focus on problems with the logistics and technological requirements following European Medicines Agency (EMA) regulations and the effects of the Voluntary Harmonisation Procedure (VHP), a protocol aimed at simplifying multinational ethics approval of general agreements which depend on both trust and coherence in other policies. Full details|| Add event|
|25 March 2015|| Full details|| Add event|
|29 April 2015||15:00|| Full details|| Add event|
|13 May 2015||15:00||What would a geography of emerging infectious diseases look like? A familiar answer to this question is based on a map or surface upon and across which diseases emerge and travel. The language is one of hotspots and viral traffic. It’s a contagionist as well as topographical disease imagination. In this paper I want to trace out alternatives that are based on what can be called a disease situation. In social theory, situations borrow from what might be called site ontologies. Situations link sites, but in ways that are non-coherent, and certainly fall short of any free-floating whole or emergent property. Situations are, I will argue, spatially and materially composite; they are, after Stengers, ecologies of practices that may well be eventful. To illustrate, I engage with a particular disease situation called avian flu. The aim is to demonstrate the spatial multiplicity that is involved when the object of concern flips between a pathogen and pathogenicity. The latter is a configurational issue, and invites a range of topological sensibilities. These sensibilities in turn seem to invite a form of abductive logic, a tacking back and forth between evidence and speculation. Whether this abductive logic reproduces a security neurosis or opens up new ways of addressing the emergence of disease emergencies is, I argue, an empirical question and requires engaging with disease events as reconfigured situations. Full details|| Add event|
|20 May 2015||15:00||Recent years have seen a revival of the idea that the entities existing in our world possess irreducible dispositions and powers by means of which they cause changes in the world. No longer being an outsider position, dismissible as obsolete and at odds with science, dispositional realism (‘dispositionalism’) has established itself as a viable and commonsensically appealing alternative to the hitherto predominant anti-realistic accounts of causation in the Humean tradition and, what is more, as a promising new approach to metaphysics in general.
In my talk, I shall take these latter ambitions seriously by exploring the implications of dispositionalism for persistence theory. Given that things have irreducible powers and dispositions, how ought we to think about the way they exist over time? In particular, should we assume they persist by being wholly present at different times (‘endurance) or rather by having different temporal parts (‘perdurance’)?
Dealing with two opposing proposals recently put forward by Stephen Mumford and Neil E. Williams, I will argue that the profile of ‘powerful’ persistence crucially depends on how one conceptualizes the processes involved in the manifestation of powers. As this is obviously not determined per se by subscribing to some view labelled ‘powers view’, further discussion is needed as to what processes are and to which kind of process theory a powers metaphysics should commit itself in order to be convincing.. Full details|| Add event|
|21 May 2015||11:00||“Species: A Praxiographic Study” - Taxonomists, who describe new species, are acutely aware of how political, economic,and ecological forces bring new forms of life into being. Conducting ethnographic research among taxonomic specialists - experts who bring order to categories of animals, plants, fungi, and microbes - I found that they pay careful attention to the ebb and flow of agency in multispecies worlds. Emergent findings from genomics and information technologies are transforming existing categories and bringing new ones into being. This talk will argue that the concept of species remains a valuable Sensemaking tool despite recent attacks from cultural critics.. Full details|| Add event|
|27 May 2015||15:00||I suppose an ontology, such as that of Aristotle, in which powers in suitable contact over some period give rise to changing over that period within the bearers of the powers, and hence a process of change, e.g. a star gravitationally attracting a planet (giving rise to its movement through an elliptic orbit), a fire heating a kettle, a heart pumping blood. I show how this ontology of change fits well with contemporary science, and how it licenses an account of things (e.g. organisms, atoms, molecules, larger chemical structures, bundles, mechanisms, artefacts, stars) as being material processes: functional parts performing functional roles at each stage so as to bring about the next stage of the process. This process view stands in opposition to the received view that things can be adequately characterised by a list of properties, e.g. things are co-instantiated universals, bundles of properties, collocated tropes, bare particulars with properties, collections of powers, etc. The list-of-properties view offers a static and discretised reconstruction (often reifying point-in-time entities) which misrepresents the complex inter-twining of dynamic processes apparent in the world, I argue. I show how recognising that things are processes provides a solution to van Inwagen’s ‘Special Composition Question’, and helps to address some major challenges within the philosophy of science. Full details|| Add event|
|8 June 2015||15:00||Dr Jeremy Wideman (EMBO postdoctoral fellow, Biosciences) gives two talks with discussion time. "King Philip Cried Out For Goodness Sake, no longer" and "Learning from our mistakes: Convergent simplification and the kingdom Fungi" Abstracts attached. Full details|| Add event|
|10 June 2015||15:00|| Full details|| Add event|
|17 June 2015||“Neurodiversity & the politics of autism diagnosis” This seminar has been postponed until Wednesday 1st July 2015. Full details|| Add event|
|1 July 2015||15:00||Autism diagnosis is a site of political mobilisation, as well as biomedicalisation. While some patients seek diagnosis, others argue diagnosis is damaging to their integrity. One new alliance that sometimes contests autism diagnosis is known as the neurodiversity movement. The movement comprises politically mobilised adults with autism who frame their neurological difference as a valuable aspect of human variation and argue against medical diagnosis and treatment claiming it pathologizes normal behaviour.
The label of autism provides a good illustration of some of the issues within ‘sociology of diagnosis’. Here diagnosis is not only as a method of categorisation, but also a social transactional process; an intervention in itself with consequences for health. In the case of autism, diagnosis dichotomises a series of normally distributed traits, such as reciprocal social ability, communication etc. Increased application of autism diagnosis comes with clear costs and benefits; and its use is frequently contested.
This talk is centred on the content of a recent grant application to the Wellcome Trust. I will present an overview of a proposed programme of work covering theoretical issues, research questions, proposed design and methods.. Full details|| Add event|
|28 September 2015||14:00||The possibilities offered by hybridization or crossing engaged the energies of animal experts from stockbreeders to zookeepers in the 19th century; it also attracted the fascinated or horrified attention of the general public. Motivations were equally various, from the pragmatic desire to improve agricultural breeds to idle curiosity. Since the results (and non-results) of these activities were unpredictable, they also provided a way of challenging the limits of individual species and, consequently, the definition of the category itself. Full details|| Add event|
|5 October 2015||15:30||The epistemic roles of models in science have been subject to much discussion in recent philosophy of science. While large parts of the discussion focus on the notion of representation adequate for an understanding of models, we will follow those who emphasized modelling as an activity and then ask what the consequences of such a view are for understanding models as representations. We will proceed in two steps. First, we will argue that the adequate units of analysis are model systems. In a second step, we address the question of representation. We argue that it is misleading to say that a model represents the world, as it is sometimes put in the literature. Full details|| Add event|
|19 October 2015||15:30||A microphotograph of a mosquito taken in the 1962 in a mountain laboratory in what was then Tanganyika provides a prompt to consider the socio-political salience and affective power of scientific images. Drawing inspiration from anthropological work on photographic practices, the paper excavates the context of the image’s production—both the geopolitical machinations of the global malaria eradication program and the domestic research station—to apprehend the relationship scientific work and lives. As much souvenir as ‘epistemic thing’, the microphotograph provides new directions in thinking about the materiality of memory in tropical medicine. Full details|| Add event|
|2 November 2015||15:30||In this presentation I shall give an overview of my research on modeling processes and practices in systems biomedicine. The focus of my talk is on the social and technological epistemology of computational modeling and simulation. The example I discuss is the conceptual framework of the MSE system (Model-Simulation-Experiment system) developed in my collaboration with scientists. I discuss the ambivalence and ambiguity of terms such as ‘representation’ and ‘comparison’ in the intensely social context of model construction and use, as modelers attempt the difficult passage to clinical implementations in the face of issues such as physiological variability. I propose a re-focusing on how grounds for comparability are instituted, and on the epistemic role of iteration.. Full details|| Add event|
|16 November 2015||15:30||In the UK and US Births in obstetric units vastly outnumber births that take place outside of an obstetric unit. Still non-obstetric births are increasing in both countries. For example, in 2004 only .87% of US births occurred in non-obstetric units (home or midwifery units), but by 2012 1.36% babies were born in a non-obstetric unit. In the UK they have seen an even steeper increase, with only .9% of births occurring at home between 1985-8 rising to 2.4% in 2011. Is it professionally responsible to support a non-obstetric birth? It is morally permissible to support women in choosing where to give birth? These are the kinds of questions that shape the debate over place of birth, and for those who answer no to these questions, the increase in non-obstetric births is alarming. Given the emphasis on evidence-based policy and evidence-based medicine it may not be surprising that the current discussion of place of birth takes the shape of empirical studies investigating the relative riskiness of different birth place choices. This debate has become heated with those on both sides finding empirical support for their positions—sometimes within the same study. While to some this debate over the evidence is a distraction from what is genuinely at stake, namely different non-epistemic values, I will argue in this paper that the way forward is to take a closer and more fine grained look at the evidence. I am interested here in how the debate over place of birth is most fruitfully conducted; I will not attempt to answer the morally loaded questions that shape the debate itself.. Full details|| Add event|
|19 - 20 November 2015||This workshop is part of the ERC-funded project, “A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology (ProBio)” led by Prof. John Dupré. The project explores the advantages, problems, and implications of a fully processual understanding of living systems.
The near omnipresence of symbiosis has been one of the main motivations for the project. The dependence of most life cycles on profound inter-connections with other symbiotic life cycles has been recognised by many philosophers and biologists as problematizing standard assumptions about the nature and boundaries of the organism. This poses ontological questions that, we believe, are much more tractable for a process ontology that is not committed to unambiguous boundaries between entities. This workshop will bring together scientists with various interests in symbiosis and philosophers concerned with biological ontology with a view to an in depth exploration of these basic issues.. Full details|| Add event|
|30 November 2015||15:30||Egenis Seminar - "Explaining Cancer Across Scales". Unfortunately, this seminar has been cancelled. We hope to re-scheduled for a future date. Full details|| Add event|
|14 December 2015||15:30||Though there have been many important insights and modifications, the basic approach of structural organic chemistry, has been in place since about 1880. Much of the progress in organic chemistry since then can be thought of as the result of articulations of the foundational concept of ‘structure’. In this talk I will consider two such articulations of ‘structure’ that resulted in consistent extensions of the practice, allowing for the solution of a whole new range of problems employing the explanatory concepts of structural organic chemistry. I will focus on developments that first made possible the use of structural organic chemistry to explain the physical and chemical features of biomolecules, thereby making some biological phenomena explicable in chemical terms. Full details|| Add event|
|11 January 2016||15:30||This paper reports on an ongoing effort to study the movement of scientific data from their production site to many other sites of use within or beyond the same discipline, from both an empirical and a philosophical standpoint. Empirically, the study is grounded on the reconstruction of specific data journeys within four research areas: plant biology, model organism biology, biomedicine and oceanography. Philosophically, the study aims to analyse the conditions under which data travel across what I call, following John Dewey, “research situations,” and what implications this has for the epistemology of science. I focus in particular on online databases as infrastructures set up to facilitate data dissemination and their multiple re-interpretations as evidence for a variety of claims across different settings; and on the wealth and diversity of expertise, resources and conceptual scaffolding used by database curators and users to expand the evidential value of data thus propagated. Through the reconstruction and careful analysis of data journeys, a great deal can be learnt about the multiple roles and valences of data within research, ranging from their essential function as evidence to their importance as currency in trading, tokens of identity and means to foster the legitimacy, accountability and value of scientific research within a variety of contexts. These insights inform a philosophical analysis of knowledge production that is attentive to the processual, dynamic nature of research, as well as its embedding in social, political and economic settings that have a strong bearing on what comes to be viewed as scientific data, by whom, and why.. Full details|| Add event|
|22 January 2016||11:00||This workshop showcases results of a recent survey conducted by the GYA Working Group “Global Access to Research Software” in collaboration with the GYA Working Group “Open Science” and the INASP Institute in Oxford, which explored the conditions for access to and use of Open Software in middle and low income countries. The survey targeted specifically researchers in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ghana. Within the workshop, results will be presented and discussed, and participants will have the opportunity to inform the writing of a report and a publication emerging from this research. These results will also be used by the Global Young Academy to inform current science policies concerned with Open Science. For more information, see http://globalyoungacademy.net/activities/open-science/.. Full details|| Add event|
|25 January 2016||15:00||Philosophy, technology and experimentation in Santorio Santorio (1561 - 1636) & Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642). Dr Matteo Valleriani - "The Changing Epistemic Function of Measurement in the Early Modern Period. Tartagelia's Quadrant and Galileo's Thermoscope" and Dr Fabrizio Bigotti - "Santorio on the the Use of Quantity in Logical Demonstration and Diagnosis". Full details|| Add event|
|8 February 2016||15:30||Science is increasingly automated. Automatic weather stations and satellites have for some time collected raw data which is supplied directly to computers for analysis, whereupon weather maps are published on the web while the analysed results are also fed into meteorological and climate models. DNA sequencing, once a lengthy and expensive process involving considerable human input, is now almost entirely automated, where automation includes both the bio-chemical intervention with a sample and also the statistical analysis of the results of the biochemical assay. In this paper I focus on two sets of questions: 1. How should we understand `observation' in automated science? I argue for a functional rather than aetiological notion of observation. 2. What is scientific knowledge? I argue for a social conception of knowledge, where the `social' includes scientific infrastructure as well as scientists.. Full details|| Add event|
|22 February 2016||15:30||According to a famous formula going back to Immanuel Kant, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the transition from natural history to the history of nature. This paper will analyze changes in the institutions, social relations, and media of natural history that underwrote this epochal change. Focusing on the many posthumous re-editions, translations, and adaptations of Carl Linnaeus’s taxonomic works that began to appear throughout Europe after publication of the tenth edition of his Systema naturae (1758), I will then argue that the practices of Linnaean nomenclature and classification organized and enhanced the flows of data—a term already used by naturalists of the period—among individual naturalists and natural history institutions in new ways. Species became units that could be “inserted” into collections and publications, re-shuffled and exchanged, kept track of in lists and catalogues, and counted and distributed in ever new ways. On two fronts—biogeography and the search for the “natural system”—this brought to the fore entirely new, quantitative relationships among organisms of diverse kind. By letting nature speak through „artificial“ means and media of early systematics, I argue, new powerful visions of an unruly nature emerged that became the object of early evolutionary theories. Classical natural history as an “information science” held the same potential for generating surprising insights, that is, as the experimentally generated data of today’s data-intensive sciences. Full details|| Add event|
|7 March 2016||15:30||In the last ten years a number of authors of the new mechanistic philosophy have argued for conceptualizing the relations traced in causal-mechanistic explanations in the biosciences by means of the idea of compositional constitution. In other words, ‘vertical’ relations across levels of organization in mechanisms exhibit constitution and inter-level parthood. For many ‘new mechanists’ this means that changes in the causal properties of parts constitutively (not causally) make a difference in the properties of wholes. This paper show that (i) this conceptualization of inter-level relations leads to a view of ‘rigid mechanisms’. (ii) It radically contradicts those mechanistic investigations in biology seeking to understand the vertical build-up of organisms diachronically and over time, respectively. Thus, (iii) a new view of ‘dynamic mechanisms’ is presented that is able to overcome this problem by conceptualizing vertical relations in mechanisms in a more dynamic manner. It is centered not on the concepts of constitution and parthood but on causal process and rate. Investigations in evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) of the origin and change of levels of organization (i.e. evolutionary novelty and evolvability) will be reviewed to support these findings.. Full details|| Add event|
|21 March 2016||15:30||South Korea is widely regarded as a nation that eats cats and dogs. The consumption of these animals has attracted a considerable amount of international animal activist attention since the late 1980s, and raised questions about the nation’s indifference to violent methods used to tenderize and process the meat while animals are still alive. Today, South Korean civil and state discourses about the nation’s cat and dog meat trade mobilize principles of wellbeing and welfare inspired by those marshaled in Western discourses about democratic moral values. These Korean discourses also emphasize a clear boundary between cats and dogs regarded as pets and those consumed as food. However, an ethnographic approach to the South Korean cat and dog meat trade reveals that these moral and taxonomic discourses do not adequately represent how cats and dogs are treated or eaten in practice. Furthermore, a closer analysis reveals how maintaining this discrepancy between discourse and practice may benefit those with ulterior political and economic motives. Bringing together anthropological scholarship on cultural taxonomies, dietary taboos and the anthropology of ethics in the context of South Korea’s largest cat and dog meat marketplace, this paper interrogates conventional understandings of ethnicity, morality and cosmopolitanism. Full details|| Add event|
|11 April 2016||15:30||During the last decade, a replication crisis has been detected in many experimental fields, and, in particular, in drug testing in clinical trials. Experimental outcomes published in top journals do not stand the test of reproduction. A widespread interpretation of this crisis puts the blame on the experimenters’ financial biases. Clinical trials are regulatory experiments in which a treatment may gain or not market access: the financial stakes for the sponsor of the development of the treatment are high. Therefore, the sponsor may put direct or indirect pressure on the experimenter to obtain a positive outcome. Often, once this pressure is relaxed, in further replications of the trial, the original positive outcome vanishes. The implicit assumption in this interpretation is that, once we correct for the sponsor biases, trials will become more replicable than they actually are.
We want to contest this interpretation of the replication crisis with an analysis of the concept of experimental bias in clinical trials. We will focus on the biases that may flaw the design and conduct of the test. Our basic claim is that replication in experiments is only valuable once the experimenters have agreed on a standardized intervention and a list of debiasing controls to be implemented in the trial. Replicability mainly helps us in controlling for unintended deviations from the protocol, once the relevant debiasing procedures have been implemented. But the major problems with trials lie elsewhere: either in improperly debiased tests or in trials with clinically irrelevant variables. Against a widespread intuition, we will defend that the outcomes in these latter trials are perfectly replicable. If we want better trials, fostering replicability (good as it may be) is perhaps not helpful in itself. Full details|| Add event|
|21 - 22 April 2016||12:00||This workshop brings together prominent biologists, data scientists, database leads, publishers, representatives of learned societies and funders to discuss ways of harnessing and integrating large plant data to foster discovery. Over the last decade, data infrastructures such as cloud, grids and repositories have garnered attention and funding as crucial tools to facilitate the re-use of existing datasets. This is a complex task, and within plant science a variety of strategies have been developed to collect, combine and mine research data for new purposes. This workshop aims to review these strategies, identify examples of best practices and successful re-use both within and beyond plant science, and discuss both technical and institutional conditions for effective data mining.. Full details|| Add event|
|25 April 2016||13:00||Philosophers of biology have had much to say--some of it positive, a lot of it negative--about efforts to formulate biologically respectable accounts of the 'natures' of humans and other species. They have had considerably less to say about prominent efforts on the part of workers in ethics--especially Philippa Foot and Michael Thompson--to develop neo-Aristotelian accounts of species natures. This talk begins with an overview of recent efforts to ground species natures in biological fact, before moving on to assess the plausibility of what I call Aristotelian Realism. I argue that the force of Thompson's transcendental argument for Aristotelian Realism has not been given due credit by critics of his position. I also argue that his argument gives better support to a position I call 'Kantian Projectivism' than it does to Thompson's own version of Aristotelian Realism. Full details|| Add event|
|26 April 2016||14:00||Half day workshop. For more information, please contact Adam Toon (firstname.lastname@example.org). No registration required. Full details|| Add event|
|9 May 2016||15:30||Psychiatric classification is considered by many to be in a state of crisis, and the controversial status of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has only been amplified by its latest revision. A central concern in these controversies is that the DSM lacks validity, which is often attributed to its atheoretical, syndromal approach. Shortly before the release of the DSM-5, the NIMH has therefore announced to replace the DSM with a theory-driven alternative, the Research Domain Criteria project (RDoC). RDoC presents a change in heuristic strategy that is well justified by the history of DSM-led research. However, it does not by itself end the classification crisis and leads to the important question of the DSM’s future. I argue that to enhance the trustworthiness of psychiatric classification, a combination of strategies is needed. These revolve around different kinds of pluralism: theoretical pluralism (1), nosological pluralism (2), and participatory pluralism (3). Full details|| Add event|
|16 - 17 May 2016||13:00||The handling and management of time is a crucial aspect of research environments and of expectations around the processes and outputs of scientific research, including how scientific evidence is marshalled in trials and policy-making. And yet discussions of the garnering of evidence and data sharing tend to forgo the temporal aspect in favour of static requirements and time-independent guidance on best practice. This workshop highlights and critically examines assumptions and implications of focusing on research as a historical process, whose various stages inhabit different temporal expectations from researchers, funders, governments, regulatory agencies, and relevant publics. In particular, we focus on situations where the temporality associated with research environments—for a variety of reasons ranging from material infrastructures to interpretations of value and efficiency— varies substantially, to the point of making research carried out under different temporal regimes practically incommensurable (e.g. data collection in the qualitative social sciences versus genomics; management of evidence in publicly funded versus commercial research; data sharing in developed and developing countries). Through this we will be able to understanding the demands and limitations raised by the increasing uses of controlled trials and other forms of evidencing across diverse settings.. Full details|| Add event|
|23 May 2016||15:30||I shall talk about the annual TA(Technology Assessment) of South Korean government, which has been performed by changing Ministries and governmental agencies since 2003. After surveying the aims of the TA and its overall executive structure, I will examine one of the most recent TAs in 2015 as regards so-called ‘genetic scissor’ technology from its initial stage of choosing the scope of its target technology to its final stage of producing the official report. I will discuss a number of controversial junctures of the entire procedure including the sensitive debate on the exact wording of the target technology and the thorny issues of the applicability of the current regulations to this frontier technology. I shall add what I think could be some general implications of Korean TA for the democratic control of scientific and technological research. Full details|| Add event|
|2 - 3 June 2016||9:00||Recent debates in metaphysics on personal identity and material constitution have seen a rise of theories which appeal to a biological understanding of identity. So-called animalists claim that the puzzles of standard psychological theories of personal identity can be avoided by the insight that we are essentially animals or organisms rather than persons and that the necessary and sufficient conditions of our identity over time therefore are purely biological in character. Moreover, it has been argued (most famously by Peter van Inwagen) that if there are any composite objects at all in the world, then these are those studied by biology. According to this view, there are no inanimate things like stones or cars, strictly speaking, as these turn out to be just collections of particles; but there are living organisms, due to a special unity making them each one rather than many.
It is time to investigate whether, and if so how, the concept of biological identity can indeed serve the functions metaphysicians attribute to it. For that purpose, the conference will aim to confront the metaphysical motives for proposing biological conceptions of identity, diachronic as well as synchronic, with the scientifically informed research on biological identity which has been carried out within the philosophy of biology but which so far has been little noticed by the metaphysics community. The conference seeks to connect these two hitherto largely separate debates so as to put future metaphysical allusions to biological identity on more solid grounds and, at the same time, to raise awareness for the metaphysical implications of the empirically founded models of biological identity developed in philosophy of biology. Full details|| Add event|
|13 June 2016||15:30||What are persons and how do they exist? The predominant answer to this question given by Western metaphysics is that persons, human and others, are and exist as substances, i.e., as some sort of discrete particular whose identity is determined by a certain set of intrinsic essential characteristics.
In my talk I want to suggest an alternative view which is motivated by metaphysi¬cal considerations about persistence as well as by recent insights from systems biology and the theory of cognition derived from it (‘enactivism’). If we take seri¬ously that at least human persons are living dynamical systems, embedded in a natural environment and for their existence at a time as well as through time de¬pendent on an interaction with that environment, we are led to recognise them as organised and stabilised higher-order processes rather than as substances in the traditional sense. Full details|| Add event|
|28 July 2016||15:00||Seminar times and abstract to follow. Annemarie Jutel originally trained and practised as a nurse, but left clinical work in 2000 to focus on sociological aspects of health and illness. Her ground-breaking work in the sociology of diagnosis focuses on how medical classification interacts with social and cultural interests. She has written on the medicalization of overweight, female sexuality and foetal death. She has also explored how the pharmaceutical and fitness industries act as specific agents of medicalization and at the use of self-diagnosis in the management of pandemic influenza.. Full details|| Add event|
|10 October 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series - Botanical distribution maps are a crucial tool for scientific ecology. For a long time, historians of ecology could agree on the notion that this has always been the case and [accordingly] have concentrated on the alleged "golden age“ of this map genre, as drawn by famous first-generation plant geographers such as Alexander von Humboldt. Rather than pursuing this line of inquiry, this talk focuses on botanical maps after this initial age of discovery. It detects both a quantitative explosion and qualitative modification of botanical distribution maps in the late 19th century. By spotlighting the case of the plant geographer Oscar Drude (1852-1933) and others it argues that the dynamics of botanical mappings were closely linked to a specific milieu of knowledge production: the visual culture of Imperial Germany. The scientific upgrading of maps was stimulated by a prospering commercial cartographical market as well as a widespread practice of mediating between professionals and amateurs via maps in the public sphere. In transferring skills and practices from these "popular" fields of knowledge to scientific domains, botanists like Oscar Drude established maps as an indispensable element of botanical observation. This wholesale dissemination of botanical maps had thus a formative influence on collective perception - the botanist's "period eye" - regarding plant distribution. Full details|| Add event|
|17 October 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series - Bovine TB (bTB) is a chronic infectious disease of cattle which can also affect other mammals: until well into the 1940s it was a source of human disease in the UK, and remains so in some parts of the world today. While the risks of bTB have been well controlled in humans and animals since the late 1960s, the disease has persisted in British cattle herds, and since the 1990s infection rates have accelerated. The UK has also experienced an increasingly high profile public controversy over government policies to cull wild badgers in order to control bTB in cattle. This paper will give an overview of the history of this controversy, which has been ongoing since the early 1970s, when government veterinarians first connected persistent outbreaks of bTB in cattle herds to their discovery of infected wild badgers in Gloucestershire. I will discuss my research and book in progress, which maps the long term development of the badger/bTB controversy, exploring a series of factors contributing to the current situation. To close, I will discuss the implications of the bTB case for wildlife, agriculture and infectious disease policy; for relationships between science, evidence and policymaking; and for processes of public environmental debate, both within and beyond the UK. Full details|| Add event|
|20 October 2016||16:30||Online genetic testing services are increasingly being offered to consumers who are becoming exposed to, and knowledgeable about, new kinds of genetic technologies, as the launch of a 23andme genetic testing product in the UK testifies. Genetic research breakthroughs, cheek swabbing forensic pathologists and celebrities discovering their ancestral roots are littered throughout the North American, European and Australasian media landscapes. Genetic testing is now capturing the attention, and imagination, of hundreds of thousands of people who can not only buy genetic tests online, but can also go online to find relatives, share their results with strangers, sign up for personal DNA-based musical scores, and take part in research. This book critically examines direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing from a social science perspective, asking, what happens when genetics goes online?. Full details|| Add event|
|24 October 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Change in title and abstract.
In both scientific journals and the blogosphere, there has been much discussion of a recent “hiatus” or "pause" in global warming. Climate skeptics see the hiatus as evidence that climate scientists have exaggerated the effects of greenhouse gases on climate. In the face of such criticism, climate scientists have found ways to explain the hiatus that do not require any significant revision to existing theory or models. Just as a coherent account seemed to be emerging, however, some climate scientists came to the conclusion that actually there is no hiatus to be explained(!), once appropriate corrections to the observational data are applied. This talk will discuss this unfolding hiatus episode, calling attention to some important features of explanatory practice in climate science: the centrality of computer models; the revisable nature of observational datasets; the multitude of causal factors that might be invoked in explanations; and the benefit and burden of substantial uncertainties.. Full details|| Add event|
|31 October 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series. This talk represents the application of my current ERC project, a Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology, to evolutionary theory. After briefly describing the broader project, I shall consider some of the implications of understanding evolution as a process undergone by processes. A central focus will be to understand better the key processes to or in which evolution happens, lineages. I shall emphasise the diversity of kinds of lineages, ranging from mere units of classification to highly integrated units of evolution, and how this diversity provides the need for pluralism in evolutionary theory. I shall suggest, indeed, that many heated debates in contemporary evolutionary theory would be largely defused if it were recognised that different kinds of lineages undergo different kinds of evolutionary processes.. Full details|| Add event|
|14 November 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series - In the “genetic age” of criminal investigation, the expansion of large computerized forensic DNA databases and the massive exchange of DNA data at a transnational level have been portrayed as being significantly important resources for fighting crime. The growing expansion of forensic genetic surveillance apparatuses raises acute and ambivalent challenges to the nature of social control, citizenship and democracy. The ethical implications of DNA data exchange between different jurisdictions are paramount.
My talk has three interrelated aims. First, to provide an overview of “new” and “old” ways of constructing social order that emerge from the transnational exchange of DNA data for combating criminality. Second, to propose a methodology for developing a multisite ethnographic research on this phenomenon. Third, to understand how a particular group of scientific experts – forensic geneticists – politicize and de-politicize privacy, data protection and public trust.. Full details|| Add event|
|18 November 2016||16:00||In this paper, I appeal to a distinction made by David Lewis between identifying and determining semantic content in order to defend a complementarity thesis expressed by Anjan Chakravartty. The thesis states that there is no conflict between information and functional views of scientific modeling and representation. I then apply the complementarity thesis to well-received theories of pictorial representation, thereby stressing the fruitfulness of drawing an analogy between the nature of fictions in art and in science. I end by attending to the problem of depicting impossible fictions. It is suggested that progress can be made by understanding the role of impossible fictions in science, namely, allowing researchers to probe into the possible structure and representational capacities of scientific theory. Full details|| Add event|
|21 November 2016||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, and seeking to establish an experimental psychopathology, from the 1920s, American psychiatrists, physiologists and psychologists began to turn to the animal laboratory. My talk will focus on the use of the conditional reflex method for the study of “experimental neurosis” in dogs by W. Horsley Gantt at Johns Hopkins University. It will explore the ways in which Gantt struggled with, and ultimately reinterpreted, the persistent problems of emotional reaction and idiosyncratic behaviour among his research animals. While both the animal laboratory and the conditioning method are more commonly associated with the predictable, the general and the uniform, they provided Gantt with the means to build an experimental psychiatry focused upon the problem of individual difference, and mount a sustained critique of over-generalization and excessive determinism in science. A focus on Gantt’s laboratory work opens the door to a more complicated understanding of the reception and interpretation of the Pavlovian method, and to the important role played by non-human animals, individually conceived and personally affected and interconnected, in the behavioural, medical and life sciences. Full details|| Add event|
|29 November 2016||9:30||“Where does the mind end and the rest of the world begin?” This question opens a now classic article, published in 1998, in which philosophers Andy Clark & Dave Chalmers advanced the idea that the mind is not realized just by the brain, but can sometimes “extend” into the world.. Full details|| Add event|
|8 - 9 December 2016||10:00||This event will address the challenges facing the bioeconomy related to rapid scientific, technological and social change. It will bring together UK industrial biotechnology leaders and academics to discuss grand challenges and then hopes to forge new collaborations between delegates, who will go on to apply for funding to begin to solve these problems. Full details|| Add event|
|11 - 13 January 2017||12:30||This workshop aims to trace the variety and mutual interlinking of contemporary data practices in biomedicine, through the discussion of the epistemological, ontological, methodological and societal implications of the development and adoption of complex digital data infrastructures and their methods and techniques.. Full details|| Add event|
|23 January 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. The talk scrutinizes the ways in which histological preparations and medical files of patients that died long ago have been re-used as biomedical resources. It takes the re-assessment of the first cases of Alzheimer’s disease as a case study to follow the scientists’ iterative meandering between learning from the present about the past and learning from the past about the present. Full details|| Add event|
|13 February 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Antigone’s tragedy and the search for the disappeared has been aesthetically and politically appropriated by artists and activists alike in Mexico and Latin America (Weiner 2015) both as a site ‘for radical political thought’ (Chanter 2010:22) as well as a ‘source of inspiration’ to ‘give voice to the disappeared, defend those who died, and demand a proper burial as an act of defiance, mourning, and remembrance’ (Poulson 2012:48-9).. Full details|| Add event|
|27 February 2017||15:30||To be resecheduled. Full details|| Add event|
|9 - 10 March 2017||9:00||Organisms are living systems. What does this mean? One answer given by systems biology is that organisms are self-organising dynamical systems that demarcate themselves from their environment by interacting with this environment on different levels. Non-reductionist top-down approaches in systems biology stress that organisms, as living systems, exhibit biological autonomy; they are integrated entities able to maintain themselves by actively adapting, whether by bodily reorganisation or by performing bodily movements, to changes in the environment rather than being the passive victims of such changes.. Full details|| Add event|
|13 March 2017||15:30||Egenis semainar series. In this talk I reflect on the meaning and implications of my diagnosis of schizophrenia in 2011. I consider the process of this diagnosis as a performative act which brings a certain kind of subjective experience under the authority and control of the medical model. Working through the ambiguity about being schizophrenic/ having schizophrenia I consider the possibility that medicalisation might erase the validity of psychosis as a limit experience.. Full details|| Add event|
|20 March 2017||14:30||Much data has sped through personal, local, and global data networks since Gore and Bangemann in the 1990 summarised the emergent importance of the Internet in terms of “The Information Superhighway” and “The Global Information Society”. It is difficult to succinctly characterise the changes global data communications have undergone since Tim Berners-Lee published the World Wide Web standard in 1991, and the first widely available Web Browser, Mosaic, followed in 1993. This talk will pragmatically summarise the architecture that has emerged in recent years as one combining: 1) Computing in the small through an expanding mobile and ubiquitous device ecology; 2) Computing in the large network connectivity through machine-to-machine, personal, local, and global digital infrastructures; and 3) Computing at scale, where powerful data-centres engage in heavy-lifting computational tasks utilising the exponential growth in processing power, reduction in storage costs, and increasingly complex capabilities.. Full details|| Add event|
|30 March 2017||19:00||Dr Adrian Currie will be joining us from the University of Cambridge to discuss Existential Risk with Professor John Dupré, director of Egenis, and Dr Sabina Leonelli, co-director of Egenis. Dr Currie is a postdoctoral researcher from CSER, the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. CSER is an interdisciplinary research centre within the University of Cambridge dedicated to the study and mitigation of human extinction-level risks that may emerge from technological advances and human activity. They state on their website the 'aim to combine key insights from the best minds across disciplines to tackle the greatest challenge of the 21st century: safely harnessing our rapidly-developing technological power... to the task of ensuring that our own species has a long-term future.'. Full details|| Add event|
|10 May 2017||This event will be rescheduled to either late 2017 or early 2018, to be advised. Full details|| Add event|
|15 May 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. In this exploratory paper I consider the differences between scientific citizenship and citizen science in relation to the fields of Public Understanding of Science (PUS) and Public Engagement with Science and Technology (PEST). The paper diverges from the usual focus on elements of technoscience that are, in one way or another, controversial or topical. Instead, the paper focuses on the apparently ‘trivial’: taking inspiration from recent process sociology, the paper examines the value of addressing non-controversial and sub-topical science and technology. As such two case studies are presented: the multiple ontologies of the nanotechnology Vantablack, and the ‘citizen science’ entailed in the YouTube genre of destroying i-Phones. Along the way, the paper proposes roles for ‘aesthetics’ and ‘abduction’ in the unfolding of the research event.. Full details|| Add event|
|22 May 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series - According to ‘ontic’ structural realism, the world is structure and physical objects are ‘nodes’ of such structure. I have tried to ‘cash out’ that claim in terms of the relevant laws and symmetries of physics, interpreted via certain devices taken from current metaphysics. I have also tried to extend this stance to biology. Such a move can be contrasted with the ‘processual’ approach that takes certain processes as fundamental and reduces biological entities to be nexuses of such processes. Here I shall sketch the similarities and differences between these two accounts and try to indicate how they might be reconciled.. Full details|| Add event|
|25 May 2017||The argument for process epistemologies in studies of the life sciences has arguably been growing for a number of years now. At Egenis there are two ERC-funded projects, ‘A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology’ and ‘The Epistemology of Data-Intensive Science’, which are dealing with particular aspects of this topic. In this workshop we will take stock of this development and explore different areas linked to this issue through some of the research being conducted as part of these two projects. Full details|| Add event|
|12 June 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. This seminar has been postponed until the next academic year. Date to be advise. Full details|| Add event|
|6 - 9 September 2017||Exeter will be hosting the 2017 conference. The conference will feature contributed papers, symposia, and posters covering all subfields of the philosophy of science, and will bring together a large number of philosophers of science from Europe and overseas. We are also welcoming philosophically minded scientists and investigators from other areas outside the philosophy of science, for example as participants in a symposium, and we particularly welcome submissions from women, ethnic minorities, and any other underrepresented group in the profession.. Full details|| Add event|
|11 September 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Emerging medical technologies are presently changing our views on human nature and what it means to be alive, healthy, and leading a good life. Reproductive technologies, genetic diagnosis, organ transplantation, and psychopharmacological drugs all raise existential questions that need to be tackled by way of philosophical analysis. Yet questions regarding the meaning of life have been strangely absent from medical ethics so far. In this talk – based on a newly released book of mine – I will try to show how phenomenology, the main player in the continental tradition of philosophy, can contribute to bioethical issues. Phenomenological bioethics may be viewed as an opportunity to scrutinize and thicken the rather thin philosophical anthropology implicitly present in contemporary mainstream bioethics. The concept of personhood in such an analysis may be substantiated by an exploration of phenomena such as embodiment, suffering, empathy, responsibility, and instrumentalization, drawing on philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Edith Stein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, Hans Jonas, and Charles Taylor. In the talk I will present the outline of the book and give some examples of how to approach and develop a phenomenological bioethics.. Full details|| Add event|
|9 October 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Large-scale DNA sequencing is increasingly being used in research and clinical care. This talk will argue that, in order to maximise the benefits of genomic medicine and minimise the potential harms, making accurate molecular diagnoses for individuals with disease should be the focus of genome sequencing. In this talk, I will outline some of the key lessons learnt from the UK-wide Deciphering Developmental Disorders study, a unique partnership between the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and all the NHS Regional Genetics Services across the UK and Ireland. By sequencing all the genes of affected children and their parents, and developing novel methods for responsible and effective data processing and sharing, we have been able to provide a diagnose to thousands of families and discover dozens of new disease-causing genes. Full details|| Add event|
|16 October 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
The so called "at-at" theory of change and motion states that there is nothing more to change than objects' possessing different properties at different times, and nothing more to motion than their being in different positions at different times. In this theory the history of the world is reduced to a succession of individually static world-states which take it in turns to be present. In most versions of the theory, in order to accommodate continuity of change and motion, it is assumed that the present times at which such static world-states hold are instants. The picture of reality thus presented favours an ontology in which the first-class entities are substances, or objects, which act as the bearers of the static properties and positions whose different values at different instants constitute the changes and motions that those entities undergo. A persistent, if minority, strain in the history of philosophy, however, has held that the first-class inhabitants of the ontology should be processes rather than objects. This idea raises problems for the traditional instant-based model of time, since processes, being inherently temporally extended, can only exist over intervals, not at instants. This paper draws on the ideas of such philosophers as Whitehead, James, and Bergson to explore the ramifications of the idea that the present should be treated as an interval whose contents are inherently dynamic in nature, the dynamic present of the title.. Full details|| Add event|
|13 November 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Recent years have seen the emergence of in silico reproduction alongside the familiar in vitro reproduction (eg. IVF), as increasingly large and automatically-generated data sets have come to play an instrumental role in the technological reproduction of human life. This datafication of reproduction is evident at all stages of the reproductive process, whether in fertility apps for timing conception, genetic sequencing for predictive fertility testing, or time-lapse embryo imaging for selecting embryos. In this talk, I will zoom in on the latter case of time-lapse embryo imaging, a new data-intensive method of embryo selection that integrates reproductive and data technologies to decide which embryos will be implanted in the womb in IVF cycles. The presentation will analyse the new sets of images and data flows that capture the embryo in silico and discuss how patients and professionals increasingly make reproductive decisions in conjunction with digital technologies. Full details|| Add event|
|20 November 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
Gaining access to the research field has received much academic attention, however little work has focused on the difficulties researchers face once in the field. This presentation proposes that by outlining the multiple stages of the fieldwork journey, a more reflexive approach to fieldwork and the research process can be attained. Drawing on a three-year ethnographic study of the match-day experiences of the fans of Everton Football Club, this presentation recounts how my position in my research community changed as the research developed. This presentation advocates that researchers should be more critical of their position in the field of their research, and should seek to identify this more clearly in their scholarship. This in turn would enable for more discussions of how each stage of the fieldwork journey affected the scope and overall findings of the research. Full details|| Add event|
|6 December 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Please note that this is a Wednesday and not the customary Monday. -
An increasing number of biomedical scientists and clinicians are asking for more philosophy. Are they in love with philosophy? And are the philosophers ready to provide them with the philosophy they need and ask for?. Full details|| Add event|
|11 December 2017||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
There is currently little formal guidance for autism researchers seeking to design studies in an ethically conscientious fashion, despite a history of research designs that have incorporated potentially harmful assumptions about the causes and consequences of autism. Published work on autism research ethics has focused primarily on research conduct and responsible communication of findings, with less focus on research design ethics. This persists despite lively conversations and substantive recommendations on this topic from self-advocates, as well as suggestive findings on how research design can be affected by a range of community engagement practices. This talk describes a project still in its early stages that aims to use stakeholder consultation to generate a set of guidelines for ethical autism research design. By comparing the perspectives and publications of researchers who do and do not use forms of community engagement, the project will evaluate whether and how such practices affect research design ethics. One goal of this project is to generate evidence of how community engagement (as one type of ethical research design practice) might benefit both stakeholders and researchers, yielding findings that may be both more innovative and more robust. Full details|| Add event|
|10 January 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
Since the 1960s, the field of molecular systematics has been transformed by the mathematization and automation of criteria and decision-making. Its goal is the objective reconstruction of phylogenetic relations among biological species, also formulated as the elimination of subjectivity (E. Suárez-Díaz y Anaya-Muñoz 2008; Suárez y Anaya 2009). The molecularization of evolutionary biology, and the introduction of huge data-bases containing sequences of DNA and proteins, along with an increased use of computers and mathematical algorithms made this process possible.
In this seminar, I will briefly describe the historical context for this “methodological anxiety”, and describe some of the statistical tools devised to solve the several problems arising in the reconstruction of life’s past. In a recent paper written with Victor Anaya we also argue that attention to the philosophical disputes between the taxonomic schools of cladism, evolutionary systematics, and phenetics has acted as an obstacle for a narrative focused on practices, and a historical and epistemological reflection on objectivity as practiced in a localized scientific field. Full details|| Add event|
|22 January 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
Main aim of this talk is to develop a comparison between the disturbed social behaviour in schizophrenia (SZ) and the disruption of sociality to be found in, especially, severe forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).. Full details|| Add event|
|29 January 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
The healing power of literature is far more often assumed than tested—either that, or ignored as irrelevant to the serious medical business of curing illness. Neither attitude is helpful. Cultural factors can clearly be relevant to mental health, and the treatment-resistance of many mental illnesses, combined with the high financial cost of many existing therapies, makes the idea of using books to heal people an attractive one. But although fiction and poetry seem to be used fairly often in therapeutic practice, so far there is very little systematic understanding of what actually works and what doesn’t for different conditions and individuals.
I take eating disorders as a case study, and report on evidence from a large-scale survey conducted with the charity Beat. We found that reading some kinds of fiction is perceived to have therapeutic effects, but that other kinds can be highly detrimental to mental and physical health—in particular those texts which thematise eating disorders, which seem often to be sought out by sufferers specifically with the aim of exacerbating their illness.. Full details|| Add event|
|12 February 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series. Continuous culture techniques were developed in the early twentieth century to replace cumbersome studies of cell growth in batch cultures. Devices — called "automatic syringe mechanism," "turbidostat," "chemostat," "bactogen," and "microbial auxanometer" — have been designed by Jacques Monod, Aron Novick and Leo Szilard and other scientists. With these devices cell growth came under the external control of the experimenters and thus accessible for metabolically and genetically studying organisms but also for developing a mathematical theory of growth kinetics. The paper explores the historical development of continuous culture devices. It further discusses contemporary designs of continuous culture techniques realizing a specific event-based flow algorithm able to simulate directed evolution and produce artificial cells and microorganisms. This current development is seen as an alternative approach to today's synthetic biology. Full details|| Add event|
|19 February 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series.
In recent years, there has been a profusion of studies charting the history of tree diagrams in natural history and biological systematics. Whereas some of these have focused on one or a few arboreal schemes, the majority have presented long histories, spanning centuries and occasionally even millennia. Early or ‘pre-Darwinian’ trees typically feature in these histories as precursors to phylogenetics; sometimes even as the ‘roots’ of later trees. Together with colleagues in France, I have previously argued that one of the most frequently cited early tree diagrams, Augustin Augier’s ‘Botanical Tree’ (1801), cannot in any reasonable way be made to play the role of forerunner to later, evolutionary trees—even as the author pitched his tree of natural families in explicitly genealogical terms. In this talk, I push the argument further by proposing an alternative reading of the historical record. Starting from Augier’s tree and other early examples, I argue that ‘pre-evolutionary’ trees should be understood less in terms of what came after, and more in terms of what came before. Attending to the functions they performed as keys, ladders, and maps, I argue that early trees were logical, rhetorical, and mnemonic devices drawn to imagine perfect, static order. Full details|| Add event|
|26 February 2018||15:30||To be re-scheduled. Full details|| Add event|
|7 March 2018||17:00||TO BE RESCHEDULED. Book Launch event. Egenis, CRPR (Centre for Rural Policy Research) and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health will be co-hosting a book launch event for “Animals and the Shaping of Modern Medicine: One Health and its Histories” co-authored by Abigail Woods (King’s College London), Michael Bresalier (Swansea University), Angela Cassidy (University of Exeter, CRPR/Egenis) and Rachel Mason Dentinger (University of Utah). Full details|| Add event|
|19 March 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series. There are just few dairy breeds, yet there are hundreds of different cheeses. Then what makes the specificity of a cheese? In addition to dairy breeds, pasture, environmental conditions, cheesemakers’ practices, and lactic ferments have been among the most frequently cited sources of cheese specificity. Here I will explore how lactic ferments came to be considered as an essential determinant of cheese specificity and terroir in France, since the introduction of microbes in our understanding of fermentations in the mid-nineteenth century, and its relationship with the making of the dairy industry.. Full details|| Add event|
|21 - 23 March 2018||9:00||The ERC-funded project ‘A Process Ontology for Contemporary Biology’ (2013-2018) has sought to rethink central issues in the philosophy of biology by elaborating an ontology for biology that takes full account of the processual nature of living systems. The goal has been to develop a concept of process adequate for addressing the multiple levels of interacting processes at different time scales characteristic of living systems. All biological entities can be analysed as stabilised processes relative to an appropriate time scale, and this conception provides a better understanding of familiar biological pluralisms (about genes, organisms, species, etc..) in terms of different ways in which distinct scientific practices intersect with biological processes. A process perspective has been used to shed light on a number of traditional philosophical problems, including individuation, classification, persistence, explanation, essentialism, and reductionism. It has also addressed the consequences of a process perspective for particular areas of contemporary biological and biomedical research.
This final conference will present the main findings of the project and explore the broader consequences of a process ontology for biology, as well as suggest further avenues of future research in the philosophy of biology and metaphysics. Full details|| Add event|
|26 March 2018||15:30||Egenis seminar series. This talk will explore the implications of patent law's digitisation on the understanding of scientific and technological inventions. Patent law is becoming increasingly datafied, both in terms of its internal workings as well as its social information, through interlinked databases. The result is that a patented invention, a scientific and/or technological artefact, is rendered into legal data. I probe the place of scientific knowledge in such a setting and show that the datafication of science and law results in different kind of calculability, namely a financial one. Full details|| Add event|
|11 June 2018||15:30||Bacteriophages (or phages) are viruses that have bacteria as their hosts. Discovered a century ago, and rapidly used as therapeutic agents to treat bacterial infections, they were nevertheless eclipsed by the massive rise of antibiotics from the 1940s onward. Faced with the major public health scourge of antimicrobial resistance, some scientists and physicians are attempting to rekindle and develop therapeutic phages, encountering considerable difficulties along the way. This talk will develop the idea that phage therapy and antibiotic therapy rely on two radically distinct conceptions of infectiology, and of medicine more generally. It traces the way researchers and physicians are actively challenging dominant sociocultural narratives about our becoming with microbes. As such they are engaged in the production of a new narrative about humans, viruses and bacteria, a complex story that invites us to rethink our relationships with microbes, the environment and living things more widely. Full details|| Add event|