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Youjung Shin: From Big Theory to Big Data
Start Date: 3/13/2018Start Time: 11:00 AM
End Date: 3/13/2018End Time: 12:30 PM

Event Description
From Big Theory to Big Data: The Two Different Ideas of Making 'Neurosciences' in the U.S., 1960-1990


This presentation revisits the history of neuroscience in the late 20th century through the lens of big science.

In 1962, the field of neuroscience, known as the modern brain study, was launched in the U.S., with the establishment of the Neurosciences Research Program (NRP). Led by Francis O. Schmitt, a well-known biologist at the MIT, the NRP has been regarded as the symbol of the triumph of molecularization in brain studies in the 20th century. However, this presentation reveals how Schmitt hoped to move beyond molecular approaches to develop a big theory in brain studies akin to quantum theory in physics. By unveiling Schmitt's notes, interactions with cyberneticians including Norbert Wiener, and his writings as a religious person as well as a scientist, it re-examines the beginning of modern brain study in the U.S. and shows why the plural term "neurosciences" was coined instead of use of the singular "neuroscience" in the 1960s.

In addition, this presentation analyzes how the idea of developing a big theory in brain studies gave way to the emphasis on gathering and managing big data from the late 1970s. When the National Institute of Mental Health pushed ahead a new Neurosciences Research Program with the establishment of Neurosciences Research Branch in the 1980s, it had the same name to the NRP, named in the 1960s, but the meaning of 's' in neurosciences was different. Based on the analysis of the formation and evolution of the NRB in the NIMH in the 1980s, this presentation ultimately compares the two different ideas of neurosciences developed in the late 20th century and sheds light on comparative senses of the Cold-War and the post-Cold War research programs in the U.S.

Youjung Shin is interested in the formation of big science in the late 20th century and its impact especially in a small country like South Korea. To this end, she now delves into the case of brain research in Korea and the U.S., revealing how the ideas of making 'big theory' and 'big data' in brain research were developed and spread across the Pacific. This historical and cross-national comparative study is expected to unveiling the relation between the modes of governance in brain research and the particular modes of understanding the brain. It will illuminate the meaning of bigness in brain research and its influence on investigating the brain in a certain social and cultural context.

Contact Information:
Name: Irene Cho
Email: irene.cho@drexel.edu
Portrait Shin
Disque Hall, Room 109, 3201 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
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