Transfer-Knowledge – Knowledge-Transfer. On the History and Contemporary Relevance of Transfers between the Life Sciences and Humanities (1930/1970/2010)

Renewal of knowledge results to a great extent from a process of border-transgression and epistemic transfer. In today’s knowledge-society, innovation takes place in the junctures between the different forms of specialized discourse. This project considered such transfers in view of the historical and present-day interchange between the life sciences and humanities.

The case studies of the subprojects drew upon historical constellations, in which new paradigms of the research of life processes evolved. In each of the investigated cases, specific biological knowledge motivates interdisciplinary knowledge transfer. Around 1930, against the backdrop of a crisis in the concept of infection, the bacteriologist Ludwik Fleck worked on a culturalization of the life sciences. Around 1970, Jacques Monod, who as a geneticist had researched the transmission of hereditary information, offered the outlines of a philosophy of nature that was simultaneously biological and cosmological.

The scientific-historical and theoretical insights of these two sub-projects bolstered cultural-scientific and epistemological oriented research that seeks application in the present-day field of cancer research. Within the framework of a laboratory study undertaken by the project’s cooperative partner, the German Center for Cancer Research in Heidelberg (DKFZ), scientific research within the branch of tumor virology was examined. With the tumor virology pioneered by Nobel Prize winner Harold zur Hausen serving as an example, the project inquired into the forms of knowledge-transfer at work, until now mainly implicitly, in laboratory research—from the transcription of natural material in model organisms to the concepts, models, and metaphors that shape present-day research. It aimed to elucidate types and methods of knowledge production and distribution, as well as concepts of translation and representation. Carried out by a cultural studies expert, this analysis has been integrated into the laboratory work.

Funding trough the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) »Übersetzungsfunktion der Geisteswissenschaften« [Translation function of the Humanities] 2009–2013
Head researcher(s): Falko Schmieder, Co-Application: Frank Rösl (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum Heidelberg)
Associate Researcher(s): Peter Berz, Birgit Griesecke, Marion Herz
Guest(s): Georg Otte, Benjamin Steininger


Birgit Griesecke, unter Mitarb. von Werner Kogge

Fremde Wissenschaft?
Drei Studien zum Einsatz konzeptueller Forschung im Verhältnis von Wissenschaft und Kultur

Übertragungswissen Bd. 1
Kulturverlag Kadmos, Berlin 2014, 200 pages
ISBN 978-3-86599-229-1

Media Response

21 Apr 2010
Von der Idee zur Akzeptanz – Wie Wissen in die Welt gelangt

Press release no. 17, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum DKFZ, 21 Apr 2010