Alban Frei, Sichtbare Netzwerke. Forschungspolitik und Life-Sciences zwischen 1990 und 2016 in der Schweiz. Eine Fallstudie zu SystemsX.ch, Zürich: Chronos Verlag, 2018, 272 pp., CHF 38.00/EUR 38.00
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The history of systems biology, when told by systems biologists, is often presented in philosophical terms. According to the standard narrative, the impasse of genetic reductionism in the face of the data deluge required a Kuhnian paradigm shift towards a holistic, ‘new biology’. One may wonder, however, whether this narrative is not as misleading as the simplistic textbook image of science that, in Kuhn’s eyes, needed to be overcome with the aid of history.
The book under review here, whose title can be translated as Visible Networks, provides an important contribution to a more nuanced picture of the development of the field. Alban Frei, a historian of science at the ETH Zurich, analyzes the particular case of the Swiss research initiative SystemsX.ch that was active between 2008 and 2016 and whose aim, according to the Swiss National Fund, was to establish Switzerland as “a global frontrunner in this field of research” (see: http://www.snf.ch/en/funding/discontinued-funding-schemes/systemsxch/...