Monday 4th February 2013 – 1-2pm, Seminar Room, Byrne House.

You are invited to the next session of the Biological Interest Group on Monday 4th February. As usual it will be held in the seminar room at Byrne House, from 1-2pm. Participants can bring lunch and drinks if they wish.
Stephen Hinchliffe will be leading the session, which will be based on discussing his draft paper co-authored with Stephanie Lavau, entitled “Differentiated circuits: The ecologies of knowing and securing life“.
Here is the abstract for the paper:
“The question of how to make life secure in a world of zoonotic disease threats is often answered in terms of an ever-tighter regulation of wild, domestic and human life, as a means to control disease. Conversely, in both theoretical and practical engagements with the business of making life safe, there is recognition of the circulatory and excessive qualities of life, its ability to overflow grids of intelligibility, and a requirement for knowledge practices to be responsive to a mutable world. In this paper we use empirical work on the field and laboratory practices involved in knowing life, specifically within the UK’s avian influenza wild bird survey, in order to argue strongly for a form of biosecurity that does not seek to integrate life or the practices that make it intelligible into grids and closed circuits. Extending work by Latour, we argue that the truth-value of life science stems not solely from the circulation of references along a single chain of reference, but also from the productive alliance of knowledge forms and practices that are loosely brought together in this process. By demonstrating the range of practices, materials and movements involved in making life knowable we claim that it is the spatial configurations of knowledge practices, organisms and materials, their ongoing differentiation and not their integration, that makes safe life a possibility.”

The paper can be obtained by emailing Jim Lowe at jwel201 [at]

For further information about this session or BIG in general, please contact Sabina Leonelli at  S.Leonelli [at]


Monday 21st January 2013 – 1-2pm, Seminar Room, Byrne House.

Sara Green will be leading the session, which will be based on the draft of a paper on organizing principles in biology, written with the systems biologist Olaf Wolkenhauer. Sara would like to discuss this paper, as she thought it would be better to discuss something that it is still in progress and not yet submitted, and that can therefore still be revised according to the comments at the meeting. Sara hopes that the topic of the paper is of general interest for particpants and that any linguistic mistakes are not too confusing (neither of the authors are native English speakers).

Here is the abstract for the paper:

The identification of organizing principles underlying observations of biological systems is an important aim of systems biology but the philosophical and scientific implications of this strategy are not yet well understood. At first sight, the search for general principles seems at odds with the widely accepted view that explanations in biology are descriptions of mechanisms, and that biological phenomena are too context-dependent to be described by law-like principles. However, we shall argue that the explanatory ideal of organizing principles is different and complementary to formulating fine-grained mechanisms. Organizing principles explain how a class of systems works “in principle” and thereby function as a conceptual and methodological framework for research across levels, systems and disciplines. We argue that there is no conflict between the complexity of biological systems and organizing principles. On the contrary, it is complexity that forces systems biologists to pursue this strategy. The ideal of organizing principles stems from early systems sciences where it was formulated to meet the challenges of overspecialization in science. We explore the potential of these early approaches and argue that looking back not only helps us understand the current practice but also points to possible future directions for systems biology.

The article can be obtained by emailing Jim Lowe at jwel201 [at] – as it is a work in progress please do not disseminate further without Dr. Green’s express permission.

For further information about this session or BIG in general, please contact Sabina Leonelli at  S.Leonelli [at]