This Week in Digital Humanities and Pedagogy

Each week, a member of the JITP Editorial Collective assembles and shares the news items, ongoing discussions, and upcoming events of interest to us (and hopefully you). This week’s installment is edited by Suzanne Tamang.

Game-changing Medical Technologies

Why have some Nobel laureates recently dipped into bench time to publish on ethics and governance?  And what’s inside a billion dollar lab notebook?   The answer to both questions is the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas system. In a nutshell, CRISPR is magnitudes better than what has previously been available to genomic engineers.  Though some of the more alarming rumors on editing human embryos are just that, it’s nonetheless alarming, pushing an unavoidable topic to the frontline as technology propels forward.

If a CRISPR article hasn’t made it to your reading lists yet, at least one piece should; it’s positioned to be the game-changer in genomic engineering, and the new obsession of some biotech entrepreneurs.  The field’s lack of consensus on what constitutes ethical research will not be breaking news, but the future of CRISPR research, and how it will be shaped by scientists, entrepreneurs, government officials, and the public over the next few years, is relevant to the world.

CRISPR research can be tracked back for at least a year, but the patent war and the intensity of the ethical debate is what’s heating-up.  Over the last month, several top scientific journals have published perspective pieces on CRISPR, breaking down the technology, the underlying scientific ideas, and the ethical debate. In contrast to the bulk of scientific literature, many CRISPR pieces are designed for mass consumption, and the authors include some of the top scientists in the world.  These scientists are helping outsiders to get educated and involved in the discussion, now.  The proof is in Science and Nature.

Collectively, the perspective pieces on CRISPR project an ominous cloud on the future of genomic engineering and highlight the need for responsible science and self-governance. What has trickled down to the mainstream news is focused on the patent war, which could be decided by “all knowing” lab notebooks.  However, my favorite mainstream piece appears in this week’s TIME.  Emmanuelle Charpentier (Hanover Medical School, Germany) and Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley, USA), the creators of CRISPR, were featured in The 100 Most Influential People; they’re interwoven with celebutants and philanthropists, and they’re obviously female.

Upcoming and Ongoing Events and Deadlines

Using Virtual Reality As a Compelling Media For Science Communication
April 24
Stanford, CA

Dakini Wisdom: Tracing the Emergence of the Feminine Principle and the Role of Women in Buddhism
April 27
Stanford, CA

Joseph Stiglitz: The Great Divide
April 29
Commonwealth Club of California

The Art of Sequential Optimization via Simulations
April 30
Stanford, CA

Humanities + Digital Tools
May 5
Stanford, CA

Silicon Valley Open Studios
First three weeks in May
Silicon Valley, CA

Makerfaire Bay Area 2015
May 16 and 17
San Mateo County Event Center, CA

Big Data in Biomedicine Conference: driving innovation for a healthier world
May 20-22
Stanford, CA

First Workshop on Corpus-based Research in the Humanities (CRH)
Paper deadline September 1

Did we miss something? Send hot tips, cool CFPs, and warmly worded rants to

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