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  • Amy Clare

Experiences of Interdisciplinary Neighborliness at the Ge-Gpx Commencing Workshop

In this post, PhD candidate Amy Clare from the Technical University of Munich reflects on working across the natural and social sciences as a means to engage with genomic research and health care.


In December 2019, I was thrilled to join the Ge-Gpx commencing workshop taking place in Cairo, Egypt. During the three-day workshop, we heard from experts in genomics, bioinformatics, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and more in an interdisciplinary effort to brainstorm and conceptualize approaches to genomics, health care, personalized medicine and global health. The participants spanned from the natural and social sciences, and included PhDs, researchers, students, and health care professionals. Through conversation I realized that many of the fellow participants I spoke with, although interested in genomics and health care, had entirely different approaches to the particular issues we were discussing.


As a social scientist in the field of STS, I found the workshop to be a fertile ground to reexamine my own thoughts on interdisciplinary collaboration in the health sector. STS itself is an interdisciplinary research field which examines how social, political, and cultural factors impact (and are impacted by) scientific research and technology development. For example, STS scholars may examine how biomedical research which relies on animal models can include particular biases (like the male mouse bias ) due to certain norms which are integrated to knowledge production practices (Friese & Latimer 2019; Friese 2013; Birke 2012). These social, political or cultural values which are integrated to preclinical trials or research can influence the outcome of particular interventions. For examine, the gender gap and exclusion of women in clinical trials for Ambien resulted in inaccurate dosage recommendations and detrimental health outcomes (Armstrong 2018). As a feminist science studies scholar, I’m interested in how power influences knowledge production practices, which in the cases above relates to the exclusion of particular gender/sexes, and a lack of recognition for how animals in experimental science coproduce scientific knowledge.


In STS, it is common that social scientists work closely and collaboratively with colleagues in the life sciences as we are particularly interested in the integration of social, ethical, and political implications of science and technology. Recently, there has been a slight shift away from the “box-ticking” approach of ELSI (Ethical Legal Social Issues) towards more collaborative and reflexive engagement between natural and social scientists (Balmer et al. 2016). Coming back to the GeGpx workshop, I found that these three days were exemplary of a more collaborative approach as myself and fellow participants engaged in questions of how to integrate and understand our diverse knowledges from multiple fields. Although this will inevitably take more than three days to come up with a collaborative (or co-laborative see Niewöhner 2015) approach to genomics and global health there was a form of neighbourliness as we worked together “to recognize our differences and to respect them, whilst seeking to welcome each other without losing our sense of ourselves and our own commitments, responsibilities, and proclivities” (Balmer et al. 2016, 77). This neighbourliness sparked energetic discussions, debates, and honest questions about one another’s perspectives, disciplines, and logics as to how we approach the topics of genomics, precision medicine, health care and more.


Asides from my interest in how interdisciplinary researchers collaborate, I am curious to further explore how genomics research produces, translates, and disseminates knowledge and how this integrates with local knowledges based within Egypt. In my dissertation I examine CRISPR-Cas mediated xenotransplantation and consider how CRISPR-Cas, genes, porcine bodies, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers work together and are entangled with one another in the production of xenotransplantation science. Drawing on this background, I am keen to contribute to the work of the Ge-Gpx network and to participate in neighborly interdisciplinary research which is cognizant and aware of particular social, cultural, and political dimensions involved in, and resulting from this work.






Citations:

Armstrong, Elisabeth. 2018. "The Gender Gap in Pharmaceutical Research." Voices in Bioethics 4.

Balmer, A., Calvert, J., Marris, C., Molyneux-Hodgson, S., Frow, E., Kearnes, M., Bulpin, K., Schyfter, P., Mackenzie, A., and Paul Martin. 2016. "Five rules of thumb for post-ELSI interdisciplinary collaborations." Journal of Responsible Innovation 3 (1): 73-80.

Birke, L. 2012. Animal bodies in the production of scientific knowledge: modelling medicine. Body & Society, 18 (3-4), 156-178.

Friese, C. 2013. Realizing potential in translational medicine: The uncanny emergence of care as science. Current Anthropology, 54 (S7), S129-S138.

Friese, C., & Latimer, J. 2019. Entanglements in Health and Well‐being: Working with Model Organisms in Biomedicine and Bioscience. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 33 (1), 120-137.

Krisch, J. A. 2017. How Much Do Sex Differences Matter in Mouse Studies? Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.the-scientist.com/news-analysis/how-much-do-sex-differences-matter-in-mouse-studies-31974

Roehr, B. 2007. Why Sex Matters in Mouse Models. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.the-scientist.com/uncategorized/why-sex-matters-in-mouse-models-46346

Niewöhner, J. 2015. "Epigenetics: localizing biology through co-laboration." New Genetics and Society 34 (2): 219-242.