Prof. Bruno J. Strasser, University of Geneva

Prof. Bruno J. Strasser, University of Geneva

Friday, 14 June 2019 at 14:00 in the Chadwick Amphitheatre, Institute Laue Langevin, Grenoble

Prof. Bruno J. Strasser, University of Geneva

Big Data: Experimenters, Collectors, Citizens


The “data deluge” is usually presented as a consequence of a technological revolution involving high-throughput sequencing, automation, and computing. In this talk, I will look into the “longue durée” of data collection and argue that the current flood of data is less the result of new technologies than of profound changes in how research is carried out in the life sciences. Specifically, the (re)emergence in the experimental life sciences of a way of knowing based on collecting, comparing, and computing data — that was central to natural history — has led to an accumulation of "data" from a great variety of species in numerous databases, our digital museums.

This profound change in research practices has also led to profound tensions with traditional notions of authorship, ownership, and credit and challenged the role of model organisms in research. Finally, it has made research data far more accessible, and raised new possibilities for public participation in science.


Bruno J. Strasser is a historian of contemporary science and technology, full professor at the University of Geneva, adjunct professor at Yale, and member of more committees than he would like. He leads a research team working on his ERC/SNF Consolidator Grant project "The Rise of the Citizen Sciences: Rethinking Science and Public Participation". His second book, Collecting Experiments: Making Big Data Biology, is coming out Chicago University Press in June 2019. He has published on the history of international scientific cooperation in Europe during the Cold War, the development of molecular biology, and, more generally, the relationships between science and society. He is also founder and director of an outreach laboratory, the Bioscope.