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FDIGS Workshop Report

Over 6-10 August 2008, the Philosophy Department at Washington 
University in St Louis played host to the Future Directions in 
Genetsics Studies (FDIGS) graduate training workshop. The workshop 
focused on the new frontier between genetics and genomics on one hand 
and neuroscience and psychology on the other. This frontier is 
developing new and exciting research paradigms in behavioral and 
psychiatric genetics, genetical neuroscience, social neuroscience, 
developmental psychobiology and behavioral epigenetics. FDIGS 
provided a forum for graduate students to explore the philosophical, 
historical and social significance of this new research interface.

FDIGS was an off-year workshop of the International Society for the 
History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB), which 
meets every two years. FDIGS was modeled on two past successful 
ISHPSSB off-year workshops FDISH in 2004 and FIDBS in 2006.

The workshop attracted 45 graduate students from the St Louis 
community, across the United States, and as far away as Montreal 
Canada and Bogota Columbia, and twenty-four distinguished researchers 
from the United States, Great Britain and Australia. Sarah Robins, 
Don Goodman-Wilson, and Ellen Clarke organized the workshop, with 
assistance from Carl Craver and Lindley Darden. The workshop was 
funded by the National Science Foundation grant number SES-0824421, 
and the Center for Programs, Department of Philosophy, 
Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology program, and Department of Biology 
at Washington University in St Louis.

The workshop opened with a reception in Holmes Lounge on the 
Washington University campus, including a buffet dinner and a keynote 
talk by Elain Mardis, co-director of the Genome Sequencing Center at 
Washington University.

Each day began with a series of plenary talks by invited guests, each 
day centered around a different theme: Genes and Society, Social 
History of Genetics, Psychiatric Genetics, Explanation and Reduction 
in Genetics and Future Directions in Genomics. The first three days' 
sessions were followed by more focused and less formal break-out 
sessions, in which one or a group of speakers presented cutting edge 
research for general discussion.

The most successful aspect of the workshop were the Happy Office 
Hours, which ended each day. During these sessions, speakers set up 
"office hours" at different bars around the workshop area to hold 
open discussions with graduate students about their work. Such 
informal sessions helped break down hierarchical power structures 
that might otherwise inhibit students from participating fully in 
research discussions. Students continued taking notes through the 
Happy Office Hours, and several new collaborations formed as a result 
of these sessions.

A directory of participants is currently being organized to 
facilitate continued contact among the participants, and to help keep 
momentum on new collaborations. Moreover, this workshop appears to 
have brought several new members to ISHPSSB, along with a broadened 
interest in the 2009 ISHPSSB meeting in Brisbane, where we hope to 
see the fruits of these new collaborative efforts.

More information, including a complete schedule of talks with 
abstracts, can be had at the FDIGS website: 

*** End of announcement

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