Computing genomic science: bioinformatics and standardisation in proteomics
Lewis, Jamie Thornton
Science is divided and compartmentalised into distinct areas of research. As science develops new research areas emerge and nurture new technologies, new methodological approaches, new disciplines and new research communities. These demarcations are socially constructed spaces that impose a sense of order on science by authenticating the new forms of knowledge that surface. Simply stated, the specific research areas and the social relations contained within them, enable science to progress in a proficient, communal, and sometimes cumulative manner. In this sense the constructed boundaries can be viewed as a set of ordering devices. The mapping of the Human Genome was a significant technical event that reordered biological activity by creating a number of these new socially constructed spaces. This celebrated scientific achievement helped yield a number of emerging 'omic' disciplines, numerous innovative high-throughput technologies, and a myriad of embryonic scientific communities, each with its own distinct identity. In this thesis the Human Genome Project is viewed as the genomic stage of the omic revolution or stage one. The period directly after the sequencing has been coined the post-genomic era and this is described in the thesis as stage two of the social reorganisation of biology. Underpinning the whole thesis is the understanding that omic science is driven by a systems biology (SB) approach to twenty-first century biology. The realisation of this will constitute stage three. Computational biologists are also using a similar model of scientific practice in order to map, trace and direct future scientific practice. However in using this developmental model, the organisation of scientific practice may turn messy when boundaries need to be permeated, re-aligned and re-ordered in the movement from post-genomic science to systems biology science. Consequently the specific aim of this research is to trace how two of these maturing research areas, 'proteomics' and 'bioinformatics', are emerging and stabilising within stage two of the omic model, and to explore some of the social issues that are being reordered within their infrastructure. Drawing upon thirty-one interviews the research provides valuable insight into the social construction of post-genomic knowledge and adds to the growing literature in the field of science and technology studies (STS) by revealing how socially constructed knowledges are translated and transferred within and between newly created scientific communities. This is achieved through an examination of scientific identity, interdisciplinary expertise and community-based standardisation.