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Monthly Archives

November 2006

Biomedicine on video display

By Biomedicine in museums

Take a look at the brand new Journal of Visualized Experiments which wants to publish video films of experimental work to help apply laboratory protocols. The “YouTube for test tubes”, as news (at) nature writes.

The editors’ explicit aim is to help researchers reproduce biomedical experimental procedures, but it certainly has museological applications as well. These videos is a reminder how thoroughly materially grounded these practices are. We are very far from inscriptions á la Latour & Woolgar here. This is laboratory work in its original meaning of manual labour.

See also Gustav Holmberg on the same topic (in Swedish) + another post 

Multi-participant-generated scientific papers

By Biomedicine in museums

Another interesting aspect of multi-participant-generated scientific papers is that they will make it more difficult to retain traditional means (e.g.,co-authorship in articles in high impact peer-reviewed journals) for evaluating scientific research performance. As one report to the National Science Foundation said already six years ago:

“the shift from multidisciplinary to integrated research … will require changes in the way individuals are evaluated at their home institutions and by funding agencies. The emphasis on integration and collaboration leads to more collaborative research projects and multi-authored papers which will challenge traditional mechanisms of assessment for tenure and promotion”

(Report to the National Science Foundation From the Third Workshop on the Development of a National Ecological Observatory Network … 2000).

Authors or participants?

By Biomedicine in museums

Tonight I am going to bed in company with a month-old (26 October) issue of Nature which carries the article that reports on the sequence of the honeybee genome. There are about 50 different species genomes sequenced or in the process of sequencing at the moment, but this is clearly one of the more interesting because of its potential power to elucidate the genetics of social behaviour.

What’s equally fascinating (as others have perhaps already observed in other multiauthor scientific papers) is that the 197 “participants” from 90 institutions all over the world are listed according to their functional position in the Honeybee Genome Sequencing Consortium, like “principal investigators” (2 persons), “DNA sequencing” (“only” 26 persons), “data management”, “genome assembly”, etc. Even “funding agency management” staff is listed in the paper. (It reminds me of the end credits of a movie: producers, instructors, 1st camera crew, gaffers, key grip, postproduction, catering etc. Will next step for consortium-produced scientific articles be to list IT service and kitchen staff as well?) Read More

CFP: Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences: "Visualising Nature" (and biomedicine too, I guess?), July 2007

By Biomedicine in museums

Just got this from one of the organizers — looks like an interesting meeting to all of us who work on visualisation:

Visualising Nature: Making Images and the Production of Biological Knowledge from Early Modern Natural History to Contemporary Life Sciences

Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences Ischia, 3 July – 10 July, 2007. Read More


By Biomedicine in museums

Apropos the recent debate about the reliability of Wikipedia — take a look at the Uncyclopedia which already has about 175 articles on science (including a very instructive one on “intelligent rotation”). The Uncyclopedia is perhaps not as subtle as The Onion, but with a little help from its friends it could be turned into the hilarious counterpart of the Wikipedia.

Magical and meaningful value of collections

By Biomedicine in museums

The ultimate Google project is to turn all textual and numerical representations of the world – all books, manuscripts etc. – into searchable digital format. Great! But what is lost in the process? In a commentary in the 6 October issue of the TLS (“Such attics cleared of me: Saving writers’ manuscripts for the nation”, pp. 14-15), my old favourite poet Andrew Motion discusses my not-so-favourite poet Philip Larkin’s view on the collection of manuscripts.

“All manuscripts have two kinds of value”, says Larkin: “what might be called the magical value and the meaningful value”. Adds Motion: “I love Larkin’s distinction between the magical and the meaningful”. There is “a primitive, visceral thrill in thinking: ‘My god, Keats’s hand rested on this piece of paper’”.

Meaningful value has almost completely dominated historians’ valuation of collections. The neglect of the magical value has probably also underscored the (otherwise very useful) avalanche of projects for the digitalisation of collections.

Andrew Motion’s/Philip Larkin’s point about the magical value of collections is a reminder, however, of the fact – which everyone who has worked in an archive knows – that the physical remains add a dimension to the historian’s work which easily gets lost when one only has access to documents in html- or pdf-format.

PhD course: "The Body as Aesthetic and Medical Phenomenon", University of Copenhagen 20 – 22 November

By Biomedicine in museums

Der bliver afholdt et PhD-kursus om “Kroppen som æstetisk og medicinsk fænomen” den 20.-22. november på Københavns Universitet (KUA og Medicinsk Museion).

De seneste års interesse for sammenhængen mellem kunst og videnskab er baggrunden for dette kursus om kropsbilleder i medicin og kunst. Ved nedslag i forskellige historiske perioder vil vi på kurset undersøge forbindelser mellem nyorienteringer i den medicinske diskurs om kroppen og samtidige æstetiske kropsudtryk. Også i den medicinske videnskab er kroppen blevet et tegn, der skal læses og tydes, og den videnskabelige omgang med kroppen er ikke blot indlejret i og udtryk for almene samfundsmæssige forhold, den mærkes også i den kunstneriske skabelse af kroppen. Hvilke kropsdiskurser følger med medicinen, og hvordan trækker disse spor i de kunstneriske universer? Hvilke billeder og forestillinger eksisterer der i medicinen af henholdsvis den sunde og syge krop og hvordan er gestaltningerne af samme modsætningspar i den æstetiske og litterære praksis? Når der er et misforhold, en usamtidighed mellem den medicinske videnskab og de æstetiske former: hvad kan da forklare denne spænding? Kurset vil selvsagt være tværfagligt forankret og forelæserne vil komme fra såvel historievidenskab og idehistorie som fra de æstetiske videnskaber: litteratur og kunst

Read More

CFP: British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, June 2007

By Biomedicine in museums

The British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) holds their next annual conference at the University of Manchester, UK, 28 June–1 July 2007. The BSHS meetings are usually very nicely organised and you will meet a lot of British (+ US, German, some French, and even some Scandinavian) historians of STM who have decided to join the ranks of the BSHS for the sheer pleasure of attending their meetings and meet their peers.

As usual papers are invited in all areas of the history of science, technology and medicine. Proposals for themed panels are particularly encouraged. Themed panel organisers will receive further guidelines, and are welcome to discuss provisional proposals with the programme organisers via the address below. Paper abstracts should contain a maximum of 250 words, use no footnotes, and be comprehensible to a non-specialist audience.  Panel submissions, where possible, should include individual abstracts (as above) for the papers, and should include contact details for all presenters.

The deadline for receipt of submissions is 4 February 2007 at More info about registration will be published in February 2007 in the Society’s newsletter, Viewpoint, and on the Society’s website.