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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: http://artsci.wustl.edu/~pnp/Research/FDIGS_2008



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