Digital Scientific Practice in Systems Medicine

Imme Petersen, Regine Kollek


The development of systems medicine has only been possible through the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to handle the large volume and variety of data on health and disease. High-capacity databases and infrastructures based on ICT were established to support systematization and integration of data about complex physiological and pathological processes in cells and organisms. Although such infrastructures are essential for research and collaboration, they are often not regarded as being an integral part of the knowledge production itself. On the contrary, we argue that ICT is not only a science-supporting technology, but is deeply engraved in its scientific practices of knowledge generation. Findings supporting our argument are derived from an empirical case study in which we analysed the complex and dynamic relationship between systems medicine and information technology. The case under study was an international research project in which an integrated European ICT infrastructure was designed and developed in support of the systems oriented research community in oncology. By tracing the specific ways that systems medicine research produces, stores, and manages data in an ICT environment, this paper discusses the impact of ICT employed and to assess the consequences it may have for the process of knowledge production in systems medicine.


Scientific practice; ICT infrastructure; Data management; Integration; Standardization; Case study


PDF (English)


Ankeny, R.A., Leonelli, S. 2011. What is so special about model organisms? Stud Hist Philos Sci: Part A 42(2), 313-323.

Auffray, C., Chen Z., Hood L. 2009: Systems medicine: the future of medical genomics and healthcare. Genome Med 1(1), 2.

Bucur, A., Rüping, S., Sengstag, T., Sfakianakis, S., Tsiknakis, M., Wegener, D. 2011: The ACGT project in retrospect. Lessons learned and future outlook. Procedia Computer Science 4, 1119-1128.

Döring, M., Petersen, I., Brüninghaus, A., Kollek, R. forthcoming: Contextualizing systems biology. Presuppositions and implications of a new approach in biology. New York: Springer.

Edwards, P.N., Mayernik, M.S., Batcheller, A.L., Bowker, G.C., Borgman, C.L. 2011: Science friction: data, metadata, and collaboration. Soc Stud Sci 41(5), 667-690.

Fedoroff, H.J., Gostin, L.O. 2009: Evolving from reductionism to holism: is there a future for systems medicine? JAMA 302(9), 994-996.

Field D., Sansone S.A., Collis, A., Booth, T., Dukes, P., Gregurick, S.K. et al. 2009: Megascience. ‘Omics’ data sharing. Science 326(5950), 234-236.

Forgó, N., Kollek, R., Arning, M., Krügel, T., Petersen, I. 2010. Ethical and legal requirements for transnational genetic research. München: Beck.

Garcia-Sancho, M. 2012. From the genetic to the computer program: the historicity of 'data' and 'computation' in the investigations on the nematode worm C. elegans (1963-1998). Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 43(1), 16-28.

Ge, H., Walhout, A.J., Vidal, M. 2003: Integrating 'omic' information: a bridge between genomics and systems biology. Trends Genet 19(10), 551-560.

Janes, K.A., Yaffe, M.B. 2006. Data-driven modelling of signal-transduction networks. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 7(11), 820-828.

Knorr-Cetina, K. 1999: Epistemic Cultures. How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Lenzerini, M. 2002: Data integration: A theoretical perspective. Proceedings of the twenty-first ACM SIGACT-SIGMOD-SIGART symposium on principles of database systems. New York: ACM Press, 233-246.

Leonelli, S. 2010: Packaging data for re-use: Databases in model organism biology. In P. Howlett, M.S. Morgan (eds.) How well do facts travel? The dissemination of reliable knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 325-348.

Leonelli, S. 2014: What Difference Does Quantity Make? On The Epistemology of Big Data in Biology. Big Data & Society 1. doi:10.1177/2053951714534395 (accessed March 4, 2015).

Leonelli, S., Ankeny, R.A. 2012: Re-thinking organisms: The impact of databases on model organism biology. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 43(1), 29-36.

Leonelli, S., Diehl, A.D., Christie, K.R., Harris, M.A., Lomax, J. 2011: How the gene ontology evolves. BMC bioinformatics 12, 325.

Lynch, M. 1993: Scientific practice and ordinary action. Ethnomethodology and social studies of science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meier S., Gehring, C. 2008: A guide to the integrated application of on-line data mining tools for the inference of gene functions at the systems level. Biotechnol J 3(11), 1375-1387.

Meuser, M., Nagel, U. 1991: ExpertInneninterviews - vielfach erprobt, wenig bedacht. Ein Beitrag zur qualitativen Methodendiskussion. In D. Garz, K. Kraimer (Hrsg.) Qualitativ-empirische Sozialforschung. Konzepte, Methoden, Analysen. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 441-471.

O'Malley, M.A., Soyer, O.S. 2012: The roles of integration in molecular systems biology. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci 43(1), 58-68.

Philippi, S., Kohler, J. 2006: Addressing the problems with life-science databases for traditional uses and systems biology. Nat Rev Genet 7(6), 482-488.

Pickering, A. (ed). 1992: Science as Practice and Culture. Chicago: Chicago Press.

Rouse, J. 2002: How Scientific Practices Matter. Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schmid, A., Blank, L.M. 2010: Systems biology: Hypothesis-driven omics integration. Nat Chem Biol 6(7), 485-487.

Sujanski, W. 2001: Heterogeneous Database Integration in Biomedicine. Journal of Biomedical Informatics 34(4), 285-298.

Swertz, M.A., Jansen, R.C. 2007: Beyond standardization: dynamic software infrastructures for systems biology. Nat Rev Genet 8(3), 235-243.

Tsiknakis, M., Kafetzopoulos, D., Potamias, G., Analyti, A., Marias, K., Manganas, A. 2006: Building a European biomedical grid on cancer: the ACGT Integrated Project. Stud Health Technol Inform 120, 247-258.

Weston, A.D., Hood, L. 2004: Systems biology, proteomics, and the future of health care: toward predictive, preventative, and personalized medicine. J Proteome Res 3(2), 179-196.

Wierling, C., Herwig, R., Lehrach, H. 2007: Resources, standards and tools for systems biology. Brief Funct Genomic Proteomic 6(3), 240-251.

Yin, R.K. 2009: Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Fourth Edition.


  • Im Moment gibt es keine Refbacks

Copyright (c) 2015 Verhandlungen der Kongresse der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie