Biodiversity is a data-intense science, drawing as it does on data from a large number of disciplines in order to build up a coherent picture of the extent and trajectory of life on earth.
This paper argues that as sets of heterogeneous databases are made to converge, there is a layering of values into the emergent infrastructure. It is argued that this layering process is relatively irreversible, and that it o perates simultaneously at a very concrete level (fields in a database) and at a very abstract one (the coding of the relationship between the disciplines and the production of a general ontology). Finally, it is maintained that science studies as a discip line is able to (and should) make a significant contribution to the design of robust and flexible databases which recognize this performative character of infrastructure.
Sandra Bell, Hugo Reinert
On the Outside Looking In: Biodiversity and Algebra of Life
In December 2003, in a letter published in the journal Conservation Biology, two natural scientists examined the popularity of biodiversity. Using an internet search engine, they had compared page-hits for the term to a range of the terms, including “climate change”, “molecular biology”, “relativity”, “Tiger Woods”, “George W. Bush”, “Arnold Schwarzenegger” and “the Beatles”. As it turned out, measured in raw page numbers, biodiversity was more “popular” than all of these – includng the Beatles.