Edinburgh Research Explorer

Sequencing through thick and thin: Historiographical and philosophical implications

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Early online date15 Oct 2018
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Oct 2018

Abstract

DNA sequencing has been characterised by scholars and life scientists as an example of ‘big’, ‘fast’ and ‘automated’ science in biology. This paper argues, however, that these characterisations are a product of a particular interpretation of what sequencing is, what I call ‘thin sequencing’. The ‘thin sequencing’ perspective focuses on the determination of the order of bases in a particular stretch of DNA. Based upon my research on the pig genome mapping and sequencing projects, I provide an alternative ‘thick sequencing’ perspective, which also includes a number of practices that enable the sequence to travel across and be used in wider communities. If we take sequencing in the thin manner to be an event demarcated by the determination of sequences in automated sequencing machines and computers, this has consequences for the historical analysis of sequencing projects, as it focuses attention on those parts of the work of sequencing that are more centralised, fast (and accelerating) and automated. I argue instead that sequencing can be interpreted as a more open-ended process including activities such as the generation of a minimum tile path or annotation, and detail the historiographical and philosophical consequences of this move.

    Research areas

  • genomics, sequencing, physical mapping, DNA, assembly, annotation

ID: 76112352