Foundations and profiles: splicing metaphors in genetic databases and biobanks

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January 2006, Volume15(Issue1) Page31To53

In this paper we explore new developments in genomics, in particular the move from data sequencing efforts like the Human Genome Project (HGP), to newer forms of data-driven genomic work that focus explicitly on the complicated relationship between genes and environment. We compare the use of a key term within the HGP, the metaphor of “foundation,” to the use of a different term, the metaphor of “profile,” within the GenomEUtwin consortium, an exemplar of “post-genomic” projects. By doing so, we attempt to re-think the role of language and metaphor in scientific projects and explore new developments in post-genomic research. These developments include: first, the movement towards an explicit and programmatic acknowledgement of the complexity of gene and trait relationships, second, the use of bio-informatics techniques as exploratory tools of discovery rather than as part of a more straightforward “decoding” effort, third, the development of network infrastructures that link up and provide access to a vast array of different databases, and fourth, the alignment between various disciplines and interests within biology, clinical work, and public health initiatives. We use the metaphor of “splicing” to emphasize the heterogeneous work of scientists engaged in “weaving together” the diverse set of ideas, interests, and players necessary for the success of large-scale scientific projects.

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    doi: 10.1177/0963662506056786