VPH 2014 Satellite:

Knowledge management and the futures of our society

Visions of Systems Biology carry hopes of understanding biology better thereby enabling the improvement of a range of practices within our society. In particular, systems biology holds promises for enhancing the health sector and being an essential approach towards personalized medicine.

Innovative interdisciplinary collaborative structures as well as experimental and computational infrastructures are needed if any of these visions are to come to fruition. In the present work of building such structures, choices are made that matter for the future development of the field and its applied research aims.  Identifying such choices is one arena for imagining possible futures and thereby taking responsibility for the present.  
This satellite focuses on the building of knowledge management (KM) structures, broadly understood as computing systems built to collect, make sense of and reason about information of biological parts and their dynamic interactions. We are interested in questions like the following:

  • Systems biology (SB) begs for new modalities for the publication of results: What are the drawbacks of the current way of publishing and how can we enable a common scientific discourse in systems biology?
  • How can/should desired research issues and answers steer appropriate KM development? What are the scientific and epistemic challenges in building KM for SB?
  • Which choices were made that resulted in the current KM infrastructure and the research issues and answers that are favored by this infrastructure?  What are the ramifications for biotechnology and health sectors that make use of these KM infrastructures?
  • How can interdisciplinary work contribute? How should it be conducted to address challenges related to SB enabling and shaping other sectors, such as the health sector?

We invite participants to identify and discuss key past and present choices made in designing knowledge management systems with respect to the need to ensure the effectiveness and appropriateness for research (like systems biological or medical research questions).  The workshop brings together scholars from the humanities as well as the natural sciences.

Detailed programme (pdf)

Invited speakers

Tim Clark (Director of Bioinformatics, MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease & Co-Director, Data Management and Statistics Core, Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center & Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School)

Bernard De Bono (Researcher, Center for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education, University College London & Senior Research Fellow, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland)

Stefan Schulz (Professor for Medical Informatics at Medical University Graz, Austria),
Gaymon Bennett (Senior Research Fellow, Center for Biological Futures, University of Seattle)

Roger Brent (Principal Investigator of the Brent Lab at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.  The lab includes a social science component at the Center for Biological Futures)

Miguel Garcia-Sancho (Researchers, Science Technology and Innovation Studies. School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh)

Annamaria Carusi (Associate Professor, Philosophy of Medical Science and Technology, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen)

Martin Kuiper (Professor, Biology, NTNU)

Astrid Lægreid (Professor, Institute of Cancer and Molecular Medicine, NTNU)

Sophia Efstathiou (Researcher, Applied Ethics Program, Institute of Philosophy and Religious Studies, NTNU)

Rune Nydal (Associate Professor, Applied Ethics Program, Institute of Philosophy and Religious Studies, NTNU)


The satellite is part of Crossover Research – Well-constructed systems biology – a research project funded by the ELSA program of the Research Council of Norway.  The ELSA program funds projects researching ethical, legal and social aspects of large priority area programs. Crossover Research is designed as an experiment of collaboration between philosophers and natural scientists.