Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

" "What Forum?" "Genomics What?" "

 by Peter Arnott, Resident Playwright – ESRC Genomics Forum and Traverse Theatre

I've got a residency at the Genomics Forum I tell people.

And the ones who nod wisely and avoid saying "Eh?" are just pretending they have any idea what that means. (I should know.  I was bluffing when I got the gig.)

"Genomics Forum" - people do keep asking me what that is.  They're mostly puzzled about the genomics bit.  I'm getting a bit of a handle on that, maybe.  It's the Forum bit I'm still wondering about.

Anyway I'll start with the first bit:

Genomics - this is:

EITHER a catch all term for techniques and research developed in the life sciences since the specific event of the sequencing of the human genome.

OR a bold new all inclusive paradigm for the understanding of absolutely everything...honest!

Hum...my patchy recollection of Thomas Kuhn suggests to me that a paradigm shift cannot be willed.  It happens or it doesn't. Maybe it has happened, or IS happening...I hope to find out.

What does seem to be rock solid already in the papers I've been reading is that "old style" Genetics is currently being rather huffily and contemptuously dismissed.

(Genes code to proteins, proteins to body parts and functions...Hah!)

That's now known as Astrology in the biz, apparently.

The most important thing we seemed to have learned since 2000 - (I say "we" , I mean "they") - is that we know a lot less than we thought in terms of one to one functionality between genotype and phenotype - or a lot less than we thought we were going to know by now.

Getting the whole genome was supposed to have been getting an easy-to-read shopping list of miracles and nightmares...It hasn't turned out that way.  This is philosophically reassuring and (maybe) politically and commercially disastrous.

Jesus! All that money!  Where's my leukaemia cure already? -

(I do stand open to correction on all this by the way.)

The only other thing I know is that as far as the general public is concerned, it's all gone very quiet...since Dolly the Sheep and Venter the Press Conference...nothing...zip...

So...the second half of the phrase: Forum?  To which all I can offer so far is a bad rhyme.

For whom?

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