Genetic Tests: Knowledge, Practice and Use

Biomedical Transformations of Life:
Knowledge, Learning and the Rise of Biocitizens

A Collaborative Series of International Seminars and Workshops Jointly Organized by the Genetics and Democracy (GaD) Network, Lund University and the Learning and Media Technology Studio (LETStudio), University of Gothenburg

Invited Speakers and Programme:

Pufendorf Institute, Lund University, 17th December 2010

14:15-15:15: Professor Aad Tibben, Leiden University
Predictive Genetic Testing: What Do We Know About the Impact?
15:15-15:45: Coffee
15:45-16:45: Dr. Pascal Borry, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Genes and the Internet: Possibility, Threat or Actual Change?
16:45-17:30: Concluding discussion

Background
Contemporary biomedicine is asking us to imagine life, community and biology anew. It is encouraging us to recognize nature and culture as no longer divided, and our minds and bodies as both clearly open and susceptible to intentional and unintentional modification and change. By envisioning our lives as ever more firmly placed in our own hands, biomedicine is also recommending that we abandon our conventional understanding of health as nothing more than the experience of freedom from illness and injury. Given the new diagnostic tools and monitoring devices biomedicine is making available to us, healthiness is translating into a question of calculable risk of illness. Knowledge of our susceptibility to illness is something that all of us are increasingly expected to demand and feel obliged to command. A crucial technology within this pattern of development are genetic tests, and our first seminar in the series Biomedical Transformations of Life will be devoted to genetic tests and their various implications for the individual, the health-care system and society. One issue that will be awarded special focus is that of Direct-to Consumer Genetic Testing (genetic tests that are obtainable through the Internet) a development that has given rise to added controversy.

Professor Aad Tibben is attached to the Centre for Human and Clinical Genetics at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. He is a leading researcher on the psychosocial aspects of genetics, and has an extensive experience of investigating various aspects of predictive genetic testing such as the psychological implications for the individual taking the test including personal reactions to test results; the impact of testing on the family system, and the level of uptake of genetic tests.

Dr. Pascal Borry holds a PhD in social health sciences from the K.U. Leuven (Faculty of Medicine) in Belgium and has been investigating the social aspects of genetics, including genetic testing among minors, publication ethics and gene banks. Dr. Borry will concentrate on direct-to-consumer genetic testing in his talk.

Biomedical Transformations of Life:
Knowledge, Learning and the Rise of Biocitizens

A Collaborative Series of International Seminars and Workshops Jointly Organized by the Genetics and Democracy (GaD) Network, Lund University and the Learning and Media Technology Studio (LETStudio), University of Gothenburg

Contemporary biomedicine is asking us to imagine life, community and biology anew. It is encouraging us to recognize nature and culture as no longer divided, and our minds and bodies as both clearly open and susceptible to intentional and unintentional modification and change. By envisioning our lives as ever more firmly placed in our own hands, biomedicine is also recommending that we abandon our conventional understanding of health as nothing more than the experience of freedom from illness and injury. We are being asked to re-envisage health as no longer that normal state doctors are tasked with restoring their patients to, but rather an ideal condition that all of us are expected to continually aspire to, both individually as well as in evolving therapeutic alliance with others. Given the new diagnostic tools and monitoring devices biomedicine is making available to us, healthiness is translating into a question of calculable risk of illness. Knowledge of our susceptibility to illness is something that all of us are increasingly expected to demand and feel obliged to command. Thus, as human powers of intervention into vital processes of life and death appear on the verge of unlimited expansion, so responsibility for measuring and managing the risks of pathology appears subject to pervasive redistribution.

This seminar and workshop series establishing collaboration between two cross-faculty networks at Lund University and the University of Gothenburg is designed in response to the new undivided world that biomedicine is ushering in. As culture converges upon nature; biology upon society; illness upon health; life upon death; consumers of healthcare upon producers, so both the need and opportunity for new forms of public and academic debate and discussion expands. The Genetics and Democracy (GaD) network at Lund University was created in 2007 drawing together population geneticists and clinical geneticists with political scientists and ethnologists in the launching of a highly successful international seminar series on the social, legal and political dimensions of the new genetics. The Learning and Media Technology Studio (LETStudio) was established at the beginning of 2010 as a strategic cross-faculty research initiative at the University of Gothenburg. Emerging alongside the new Gothenburg Centre for Person-Centred Care (GPCC) at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, part of the ambition of LETStudio is to initiate new interdisciplinary research on the co-production of new medical technologies and patient-doctor relations in the management and treatment of different forms of chronic illness. Thus, a common ambition drawing GaD and LETStudio into collaborative endeavour is to advance concerted and productive engagement with the new and inventive patterns of sociality and citizenship emerging in the wake of the contemporary biomedicalisation of illness and health. As we are increasingly expected to live and learn in respect of the biomedical knowledge of ourselves we are able to access, how can the new relations of bioeconomy and society this furthers be subjected to broader and more challenging modes of interrogation?

It is intended to hold at least four jointly convened seminars or workshops every year for the next two years where GaD and LETStudio will take it in turns to act as hosts. As well as furthering discussions and encouraging the creation of new interdisciplinary research initiatives both within and between the two co-ordinating networks, it is also intended for the seminars and workshops to be open for doctoral students from different disciplines to follow as part of their research education.

For further details concerning this event and forthcoming seminars in the Biomedical Transformations of Life series please contact one of the following representatives from GaD and LETStudio

Niclas Hagen (GaD)
Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences
Lund University
Tel.: +46 707435016
e-mail: niclas.hagen@kultur.lu.se

Maria Hedlund PhD (GaD)
Department of Political Science
Lund University
Tel.: +46 462220163
e-mail: maria.hedlund@svet.lu.se

Mark Elam PhD (LETStudio)
Department of Sociology
University of Gothenburg
Tel.: +46 317864825
e-mail: mark.elam@sts.gu.se

Web-Based Genetic Testing and the 1000$ Genome


In a recent debate in one of the major Swedish newspapers, three medical researchers proposed an increased use of DNA-testing in the health-care, for example in relation to susceptibility testing towards our most common diseases. In their article they also came out in support of a public-private partnership in order to achieve such an increased use of DNA-testing in the health-care system (http://www.svd.se/opinion/brannpunkt/avdramatisera-dna-testerna_5521935.svd).  In my answer to this article I raised some questions regarding a number of issues that I thought were not addressed by  the three researchers, and among those were the question of a potential shift in what we consider to be normal and abnormal in relation to an increased understanding of our genetics and our biology in general (http://www.svd.se/opinion/brannpunkt/dna-tester-vacker-svara-fragor-som-kraver-svar_5536473.svd).  Up to this day the debate on direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been whether the test offered by such companies as 23andMe etc., actually do give any answers on individual susceptibility for future disease. Another reply in the above debate did state exactly this argument: The tests that are offered today do not give us the full picture for an individual susceptibility assessment to be used as a routine within the health-care system (http://www.svd.se/opinion/brannpunkt/dna-tester-kan-vara-helt-missvisande_5539425.svd).

What we have to consider when we think about the combination of genes and the internet is the “1000$ Genome”; that is, the day when we can do whole genome sequencing for under 1000$. Today that cost is still in the range of 30000-40000$ (these figures is for Knome) depending on whether you are a private individual or a researcher buying the service. So there are still some distance to cover, but I think nobody doubts that we will get down to the figure of 1000$ quite soon. And what will happen then? A full sequencing means that we will be able to look at the whole (or almost the whole) DNA of an individual, instead of the “snap-shots” that we are getting through the SNP-analyses provided by 23andMe etc. I think that we will be able to connect at least a number of dots through the information and knowledge that may come out as a result of a wider employment of full sequencing. It may even give us a better picture on the interaction between environmental and genetic factors in relation to disease, but also in conjunction to other traits which currently are not considered within the concept of disease. And it is within this theme that things start to get complicated as the question of the normal and abnormal might become: (1) defined in accordance with genetic factors and variations, (2) defined according to the laws of the market, as well as (3) be subject of a relocation from the public  to the private sphere. One of the questions that we have to address is whether this scientific and technological change will be accompanied by a cultural and social change as well, a change in our cultural understanding of disease whereby the concepts of normal and abnormal will be redefined according to genetic variations that are present in both normal and abnormal conditions and traits. We also need to address what impact a digital culture and digital biosociality might have upon these questions, especially in the light of future possibilities to actually obtain usable information from the web-based services.

From Biosociality to Digital Biosociality

Biosociality

It is almost a truism nowadays to begin a text on the social and cultural aspects of genetics etc.  with the words:”The developments within genetics etc.” and I will refrain myself even though it is hard (just look at the many texts produced within the social and cultural sciences and you will notice all sorts of varieties of the example presented above). However, what theoretical concepts have emerged during the last 10-15 years of research on these social and cultural aspects?  One of the most influential concepts was originally coined by the American anthropologist Paul Rabinow, who already in 1992/1996 talked of an emerging biosociality, within which “it is not hard to imagine groups formed around the chromosome 17, locus 16, 256, site 654, 376 allelle variant with a guanine substitution (Rabinow 1996). The concept of biosociality was forged by Rabinow as a way to think through what kind of sociality might emerge as our knowledge of what a disease is were undergoing a process of considerable change. The concept were meant to stand in a contrast to the concept of socio-biology (see earlier posts: Biopolitcs) and to capture a “new” kind of social interaction as a consequence of developments within genetics etc. (Gibbons & Novas 2008, Rabinow 2008). Within the social and cultural sciences much attention has been dedicated to understand how the reclassification of many diseases shapes individual, as well as collective, identity formation and to explore the implications of genetic knowledge for how individuals understands themselves or relate to others. Moreover, another objective was to explore how these “new” identities might, through patient organizations etc., create new relationships between scientific experts and lay-people, bringing forward new ways of knowledge production within the medical sciences (Gibbons & Novas 2008, Jasanoff 2006, Rabeharisoa & Callon 2006). The concept of Biosociality has been one of the most widely used concepts when scholars have tried to make sense of these rather diverse fields of inquiry.

It has now passed 14 years since Rabinow coined the concept, during which we have seen an even faster scientific development, as well as further developments in the societal and cultural context within which this scientific development takes  place. We have for example seen how patient organizations have taken a more active role in their relation to science, not only influencing but also actively steering research. As an example of this development, we can just mention the Michael J. Fox Foundation (http://www.michaeljfox.org/) which has emerged as a major player in funding research on Parkinson´s Disease. When it comes to Huntington´s Disease, we have the Hereditary Disease Foundation (http://www.hdfoundation.org/aboutus.php), which was started by Dr. Milton Wexler in 1968 when his wife was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, and it is now one of the major contributors on research on Huntington´s Disease. Within the context of autism, Chloe Silverman has been investigating how American parents to children affected by autism were able to steer research on the genetic basis of autism by forming their own gene repository; that is, by taking control of the DNA of which the scientists depended for their research (Silverman 2006). In the European context, Vololona Rabeharisoa and Michel Callon report that the interaction between scientists and patients in relation to French research on muscular dystrophy has infact enabled a transformation of the relation between patients and experts (Rabeharisoa & Callon 2006). This is then an extension of the former self-help groups which gave mutual support to individuals affected by disease, an extension in the form of new social health movements that are rewriting the intersection between the lifeworld of the affected individuals and the scientific system. In short, an increased participation through patient organizations is rewriting the balance-sheet between science and the everyday life of affected individuals in a way that can be characterized as a process of democratization.

Digital Biosociality

So, during the last decade we have been able to, through the concept of biosociality, to give a better understanding of those transformations accounted for above, as well as to achieve a better general understanding of the impact of biology upon our society and culture. However, what are not contained in most accounts on these new biosocialities are the emergence of the new social media and the impact of the internet. For those who are active within the medical and biological sciences the phenomenon of Direct-to Consumer Genetic Testing is a familiar theme, as this subject has been the focus for a rather intense debate during the last years. I will not go in to deep on this issue here, leaving it for later posts, but I would like point out how biosociality might be seen as part of the business model of such companies like 23andMe etc. I will exemplify my thoughts by using three illustrations, starting with a 23andMe initiative from 2008 to democratize genetics (or participate actively) through new technical innovations that are meant to lower the price on genetic tests:

“By taking advantage of continuing innovation we are able to introduce a new chip that will give people more relevant data at a lower price,” said Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe. “We are excited that we are opening doors for more people to learn about their health and ancestry and for more people to be able to participate in advancing research. It is important to democratize personal genetics and make it more accessible.” (https://www.23andme.com/about/press/20080909b/)

This initiative also involves the opportunity for participants to share their genetic information through a web-based networking platform:

“Our social networking platform enables members of the 23andMe community to connect with each other, find areas of common interest, and share information about themselves. We’re excited about growing our network more rapidly; making it widely available fast-tracks our research mission.” (https://www.23andme.com/about/press/20080909b/)

The other illustration comes in relation to a paper published 2010 by the company in which they have involved their customers as active participants in their research:

“This paper announces and validates a revolutionary way of conducting scientific research,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe President and Co-Founder. “In this paper we confirm that self-reported data from our customers has the potential to yield data of comparable quality as data gathered using traditional research methods. We are excited about moving scientific research forward, faster,” continued Wojcicki (https://www.23andme.com/about/press/20100624/).

Another initiative that also tries to enroll the public as active participants in research is the Personal Genome Project which states their objective as:

“We believe individuals from the general public have a vital role to play in making personal genomes useful. We are recruiting volunteers who are willing to share their genome sequence and many types of personal information with the research community and the general public, so that together we will be better able to advance our understanding of genetic and environmental contributions to human traits and to improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness. Learn more about how to participate in the Personal Genome Project” (http://www.personalgenomes.org/).

These three illustrations are meant to show how internet and new social media provides new opportunities for the creation of biosociality. In the case of 23andMe these new opportunities are obviously formed in a context of commercialization of certain genetic applications, but nevertheless I mean that we can see the emergence of a web-based biosociality. We can readily recapitulate Paul Rabinows original thought that in an emerging biosociety “it is not hard to imagine groups formed around the chromosome 17, locus 16, 256, site 654, 376 allelle variant with a guanine substitution (Rabinow 1996), but at this point of time biosociality is gradually becoming more and more a web-based phenomenon. This digital biosociality is of course not only to be seen in relation to companies such as 23andMe or projects like the Personal Genome Project. In relation to Huntington´s Disease, Facebook is progressively more becoming a natural meeting point for individuals who in various ways are affected by the disease. Here we can use the Huntington Awareness page on Facebook as an example of one of these digital meeting points for affected individuals. Being a rare disorder (in Sweden there are about 1000 individuals who are considered to be sick in the disease), Facebook and other social media provides the opportunity for affected individuals to connect over physical borders to share their experiences of the disease, as well as building a web-based community in a way that they might not been enabled to do without the opportunities provided by social medias such as Facebook.

Biosociality has then during the last years gone digital which means that many of the processes that were accounted for in the former sections might be web-based in the future. What are the implications of this development? Well, that is a question that is still awaits more research by social and cultural scientists, but I would like to point out the importance of taking advantage of the knowledge that is already out there, brought home by our colleagues in other fields of inquiry, who for many years have been investigating the impact of new social media on various societal and cultural spheres.

References

Gibbon, S. & Novas, C. (2008).”Introduction” in Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences –Making Biologies and Identities. London: Routledge.

Jasanoff, S. (2006). “The idiom of co-production” in States of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Rabeharisoa, V. & Callon, M. (2006). “ Patients and scientists in French muscular dystrophy research in Jasanoff, S. States of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Rabinow, P. (1996) “Artificiality and enlightenment: from sociobiology to biosociality” in Essays on the Anthropology of Reason. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rabinow, P. (2008). “Afterword –Concept work” in Gibbon, S. & Novas, C. Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences –Making Biologies and Identities. London: Routledge.

Silverman, C. (2008). “Brains, pedigrees, and promises” in Gibbon, S. & Novas, C. Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences –Making Biologies and Identities. London: Routledge.

Paul Rabinow

Biopolitics

Biopolitics

These are the times when the democratic election is given a massive societal attention, as the votes of the Swedish electorate have been casted and an abundance of experts struggle to understand the result of the recent election. It is hardly a surprise then that the concept of biopolitics comes to one´s mind, even though it can barely be said to constitute a neologism any longer. Those of you who are familiar with the writings on genetics, biomedicine etc., do obviously trace the concept back to the French philosopher Michel Foucault who used the concept to distinguish one of those ruptures in western thought and practices that he tried to understand in many of his texts. Today, the concept is one of the most widely used within the cultural and social sciences as they try to analyze various societal aspects taking place in the wake of the progress in the life sciences. However, the concept of biopolitcs is given an altogether different meaning by scholars who envision an adjustment within political science and sociology in accordance to the findings in genetics and neuroscience. In this text, I will take a closer look on the concept of biopolitics and its various forms, and I will commence with the usage adopted by Michel Foucault.

Power over life and death – Biopolitics according to Foucault.

The most coherent definition of biopolitics made by Foucault can be found in the first volume of the History of Sexuality (Foucault 2002), in which Foucault devoted 21 intense pages upon the change whereby a sovereign´s (the absolute power which resided in the hand of the king) right over life and death becomes modernized, a modernization that Foucault understands as a change in the way power is exercised in our culture and society. The concept of biopolitics stands then, in Foucault´s way of thinking, in an intimate relationship with the concept of power (see Foucault 1994: 326-348, Dreyfus & Rabinow 1983: 104-205: Kalm 2008: 69-78 for some elaborations on the concept of power). According to Foucault the entrance to the modern age can be characterized by a rupture in the way power is exercised within the nation state. Whereas the pre-modern management of life, in the hands of the sovereign, was more about a holding back the absolute right to kill, the modern conceptualization of life (in the form of biopolitics) turned its focus on how to “maximize life” through a proper administration of the population within the newly born nation state (Foucault 2002). In line of this shift, we witness how a whole range of practices make their entrance within the western society (among others: reproductive interventions in the form of eugenics as well as the formation of the concept of Pubilc Health) which marks the shift whereby power within the western state is exercised in accordance to new objectives, as well as in novel forms.     

New answers regarding the “human nature” – Biopolitics on the “basis “of findings produced within genetics and neuroscience.

In this section we will find a slightly different definition of biopolitics, directly tied to the findings of genetics and neuroscience. In their article in Science, James Fowler & Darren Schreiber puts forward that: “Although political scientists have made progress on important questions, their models have become burdened with dozens of ad hoc theories, and they fit poorly to the data” (Fowler & Schreiber 2008: 912). Another well-known scholar who has made the same kind of argument (there are of course many others, we are talking of an entire scientific field here but I merely make use of these examples to make an illustration) is of course Steven Pinker, who in his well-known The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) (Ett oskrivet blad –och andra myter om människans natur Natur och Kultur 2006) devotes a chapter to the issue of politics. According to Steven Pinker, and many others, the development within genetics and neuroscience will eventually give us answers that will open up the innermost core of the human nature, and sociology and political science will then have to take these answers into account and adjust themselves accordingly. Or as Fowler & Schreiber states it in the end of their article: “The new science of human nature demands (my emphasis) that we recognize that genes are the institutions of the human body. They regulate the neurological processes that drive social and political behavior. And we cannot fully appreciate their function in humans without understanding their role in the very complex social and political interactions that characterize our species” (Fowler & Schreiber 2008: 914). The cultural and social arguments of Michel Foucault are here replaced by a vision that defines biopolitics according to a program of a quite strong biological reductionism (Yes, I am aware of that we readily can invoke the concept of sociobiology here, and Pinker´s argumentation in his The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature can in fact be seen as a prolongation of the argumentation that, among others, Ed Wilson started in 1975).

New ways to think and act upon ourselves in a biopolitics for the 21: st century – Somatic and neurochemical selves.

Michel Foucault developed his thoughts on biopolitics/biopower for over 30 years ago when the progress in genetics and biomedicine was just about to pick up its pace. Moreover, Foucault did, even though he had his vision very much on the present, take as his point of departure developments taking place at the birth of modernity. We might ask ourselves then, what form this “foucauldian” thought are given by cultural and social scientists who analyze current interactions between genetics/biomedicine and the society? The sociologist Nikolas Rose proposes that we increasingly have become somatic selves that come to think and act upon ourselves in accordance to biological causal mechanisms (Rose 2007). Another U.K sociologist, Scott Vrecko, adopts the same point of departure in relation to neuroscience when he states that: “In line with their vast expansion over the last few decades, the brain sciences –including neurobiology, psychopharmacology, biological psychiatry, and brain imaging –are becoming increasingly prominent in a variety of cultural formations, from self-help guides and the arts to advertising and public health programmes (Vrecko 2010: 1). He continues: “Over the last few decades, the neurosciences have expanded dramatically, not only in terms of the resources they command and the authority they wield, but also of the scope and range of problems and phenomena they territorialize (my emphasis). In order to follow up this argument, Vrecko lists a number of phenomena -from altruism, criminal-behavior, motivation, as well as love – which today can be visualized in accordance with neurobiological and neurochemical functions and mechanisms (Vrecko 2010:2). However, the current development are still part of the biopolitical context that Foucault drew our attention to in the 1970:s, this time though the focus have been shifted from the population to the individual and his/hers own responsibility in the light of health-care and well-fare systems that are crumbling by a financial strain. As active “somatic citizens”, we are more and more obligated to live our life through acts of prudent calculation and choice, obliged to inform ourselves, not only on our current illnesses, but also on our susceptibilities and predispositions for future illness. And once informed, the active citizen are obliged to take appropriate steps such as adjustment of diet, general lifestyle, and habits, all in the name of minimization of illness and maximization of health (my emphasis) (Rose 2007: 147). The change comes in the way our body is visualized and acted upon, no doubt most of us are still thinking and acting on ourselves in the form of the “whole” body, but this is maybe about to change as we move into an age of an “molecular biopolitics/biopower”(Rose 2007:11) performed on the individual in accordance to maximize life and health.

However, the arguments of Rose and Vrecko are still very much open to empirical inquiries. Are we really becoming somatic and neurochemical “selves” as they suggest? My own research within the context of Huntington´s Disease, a degenerative brain disease with a strong genetic background (autosomal dominant with a 100% penetrance) suggest a different picture which I might return to in later posts on this blog.

References

Dreyfus, L., H. & Rabinow, P. (1983). Michel Foucault –Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Foucault, M. (1994) “The Subject and Power” i Rabinow, P. (red)  Power –Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, New York: The New Press.

Foucault, M. (2002) Sexualitetens historia – Volym 1. Göteborg: Daidalos.

Fowler, H., J. & Schreiber, D. (2008) “Biology, Politics and the Emerging Science of Human Nature, Science, vol 322: 912-914.

Kalm, S. (2008). Governing Global Migration. Lund: Lund Political Studies.

Pinker, S. (2006).  Ett oskrivet blad –och andra myter om människans natur. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.

Rose, N. (2007). The Politics of Life Itself. Pinceton: Princeton University Press.

Vrecko, S. (2010). “Neuroscience, power and culture: an introduction, History of the Human Sciences, 23:1: 1-10.

Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker

Michel Foucault
Nikolas Rose
Nikolas Rose

A blog about…

I think that the name bioculture(s) captures what this blog will take as its different themes, the general theme being the interactions between biology (focused on genetics and neuroscience) society and culture. As an scientific “hybrid” who has been enrolled at the major university faculties (in my case at Lund University, Sweden. See my presentation for details) conducting undergraduate studies in genetics/molecular biology, social science (sociology and political science) and now doing my PhD within the humanities (ethnology), it is my firm belief that an interdisciplinary point of departure have a fair chance to pin down the different complexities that arise as our biological underpinnings are disclosed by the biomedical and natural sciences. Moreover, it also my firm belief that this interdisciplinary point of departure much involve a ongoing dialogue between scholars working in the different scientific fields, ending extreme social constructivist or biological deterministic standpoints which might bury the dialogue in the trenches rather than opening gates to an increased understanding and a collaborative knowledge “production”.  However, the natural and social/cultural sciences do exist in different cultural realms which involve rather different ontological and epistemological standpoints, as well as different scientific practices, which do create borders that have to be discussed and analysed.  As a scientific “hybrid” who can move fairly easy between these different scientific cultures, I would like to take the opportunity to raise some of my thoughts on these different cultures, as well as interdisciplinary scientific as such in this forum.  To some extent the concept of interdisciplinary science has become something of a catch-word, dissolving itself into multidisciplinary scientific practices which, notwithstanding that these multidisciplinary practices do carry a value on their own, is not the same as an interdisciplinary approach to a research object. We might, against this background, wonder about the specificity of an interdisciplinary research problem? What are its ontological and epistemological aspects? Are these ontological and epistemological aspects different from a multidisciplinary or “regular” research problem?  And how do we design these research problems in the concrete scientific situation? I obviously do not have the answers on these questions, but as I more than often encounter these questions in my everyday existence as a PhD student enrolled in an interdisciplinary research environment, I intend to share my tentative thoughts on these matters.

However, this blog is not only about the issue of interdisciplinary science, it is also intended to discuss various aspects of the interaction between biomedical/natural science and the society.  This field of discussion will obviously be driven by the ongoing debate on hot-topics, as for example the issue of consumer genetics, but will also draw upon general features that I encounter in my own research, as well as other interesting topics that I will encounter in the course of my wanderings in the “thinking-space” between biology and culture. All views expressed on this blog is of course my own, and should not be linked to any of my affiliations.

Thanks!

Niclas Hagen, Lund