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Supersizing Science

On Building Large-Scale Research Projects in Biology

by Niki Vermeulen

Paperback e-Book PDF
Institution: Maastricht University
Advisor(s): Wiebe Bijker, Rein de Wilde, and Andrew Webster
Degree: Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies
Year: 2009
Volume: 233 pages
ISBN-10: 1599423642
ISBN-13: 9781599423647


In recent years there has been a clear rise in scientific collaboration, as well as in studies on the subject. While most scholars examine disciplines traditionally known to be collaborative, such as physics and space research, this book focuses on biology. It investigates the growing collaboration in the life sciences, or the emergence of what is called 'big biology'. While the Human Genome Project is often presented as the first large-scale research project in biology, cooperation in the life sciences has a longer history. A comparison between centralised 'big physics' and 'big biology' reveals how the latter has a networked structure, which evolved in interaction with the integration of information and communication technologies. By concentrating on the construction of these networks, three contemporary large-scale research collaborations are analysed: the Census of Marine Life that aims to make an inventory of life in the oceans, the Silicon Cell initiative that wants to design a replica of a cell in a computer, and the VIRGO consortium, which investigates host-virus interaction to develop a new therapy against influenza. This book demonstrates how the process of making science bigger, or the 'supersizing of science', transforms the ways in which science is organised while it also changes the work of scientists involved. As such, this has both scholarly and professional implications for the next generation of scientists.

About The Author

Niki Vermeulen specialises in science and innovation policy and the organisation of research, especially scientific collaboration. Her research concentrates on transformations in the life sciences and she is currently a Wellcome Research Fellow in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine of the Univeristy of Manchester, UK. Niki holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Maastricht University, The Netherlands, was a Marie Curie research fellow at the Science and Technology Studies Unit at the University of York, UK, researcher and lecturer in the Department of the Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna, Austria, and visiting researcher at the Centre for Society and Genomics/Life Sciences in The Netherlands. She co-founded a network of young researchers that has been granted the European COST action ‘Bio-objects and their Boundaries: Governing Matters at the Intersection of Society, Politics, and Science’ and is co-chairing one of the working groups. Next to her academic positions, Niki has been working for Technopolis Group, the Executive Board of Maastricht University, the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), and the Scientific Council of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC, USA.