Across and within networks: Thickening the history of genomics

James Lowe, Miguel Garcia Sancho Sanchez, Rhodri Leng, Mark Wong, Niki Vermeulen, Gil Viry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this essay, we reflect how the findings of the preceding papers enabled us to thicken the history of genomics beyond extending the dimension of time. We expanded the number of dimensions across which our historical work operated and signaled how the history of genomics became synchronically intertwined with a range of communities, target species, and research agendas – among them yeast biochemistry, pig and human immunology, systematics, medical genetics, and agricultural genetics. We made sense of these intertwinements with analytic categories to characterize modes of organizing and conducting sequencing, and the relationship between the practices of sequencing and the objectives of those collaborating around it: horizontal and vertical, proximal and distal, directed and undirected, as well as intensive and extensive sequencing.

Our categories emerged as we analyzed and qualitatively interpreted datasets and co-authorship networks. The increasing availability of data and data-analysis tools for historical work provides a new angle on debates concerning the relationship of case studies to bigger pictures in the history of science.

Throughout this special issue, we have characterized genomics as a set of tools that open up connections between actors, institutions, experimental organisms, and historically contingent forms of research. We contend that presenting genomics in this way emphasizes the agency of the communities that mobilized the sequence data and offers a fresh perspective to address the medical and agricultural translation of that data.

We close by proposing ways of extending our approach to new forms of data and connecting these through an ontology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • genomics
  • sequencing
  • mixed-methods
  • social network analysis
  • collaboration
  • longue-durée history
  • quantitative methods
  • qualitative methods

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