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Updating a Biomedical Database. Writing, Reading and Invisible Contribution

Abstract : The development of information and communication technologies has multiplied our ability to produce, circulate and store large amounts of data. Over the last twenty years databases have become an essential part of biomedical research. For these databases to operate effectively, a link has to be made between very small amounts of biological material (only a few microlitres) and a wide range of personal data relating to the donors (age, sex, occupation, lifestyle, diet, etc.) and their state of health (clinical and biological data). Yet most studies on bioinformatics databases take this link for granted, as if it emerged naturally and automatically from the data collection process. However, the relationship between samples and data does not emerge in and of itself. This paper shows that the solidity of the link between different types of data is based on the daily work of writing. It also shows that ‘information' is not the starting point of the work. Conversely, the whole set of documents and writing practices are precisely a way of transforming data into information that has a polyvalent value: scientific, medical and legal.
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David Pontille. Updating a Biomedical Database. Writing, Reading and Invisible Contribution. Anthropology of Writing: Understanding Textually-Mediated Worlds, Continuum, pp.47-66, 2010. ⟨halshs-00575215⟩

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