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Event Details

6th EASPLS group photo
Summer School
Dealing with Complexity in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences
6th European Advanced School in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences
2022-09-05 12:00 - 2022-09-09 14:00
University of Bordeaux, 35 Place Pey Berland 33000 Bordeaux, France
Organized by Institute for Philosophy in Biology & Medicine & ImmunoConcEpT lab, University of Bordeaux & CNRS, Bordeaux, France

Topic of EASPLS 2022: “Dealing with Complexity in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences”


Complexity, from genomes to ecosystems, is a fundamental characteristic of living systems. In dealing with complexity, the life and medical sciences have developed over the centuries a wide range of epistemological and methodological approaches as well as social and institutional configurations to organize and perform scientific work.  The goal of this summer school is to bring together senior and junior researchers in the philosophy of life sciences to jointly reflect on and discuss:

  • Epistemological and methodological issues in relation to complexity. We will look into the many practices developed in the biological, biomedical, and environmental sciences, in order to deal with the complexity of life. For instance, we will address the many roles that experiments, data, theories, models as well as heuristics, explanations or visualizations have played in the development of the life and medical sciences.
  • Ontological and metaphysical issues in relation to complexity. We will discuss issues related with complex causation in living systems, mechanistic constitution, process thinking as well as modularity and robustness as ways to understand the main characteristics of living systems in the biological, biomedical, and environmental sciences.
  • Institutional, societal, and political dimensions of scientific work dealing with complexity. We will discuss social-organizational issues that emerge in relation to scientists’ various approaches to deal with complexity in the biological, biomedical, and environmental sciences. For instance, we will talk about the emergence of inter and transdisciplinary research centers and consortia; the different -omics; different configurations of sharing research materials and results; real-world laboratories at the science-society interface or big-data labs from medicine to sustainability science.
  • The role that historians and philosophers of the life sciences can play in critically contributing to support scientific attempts to deal with complexity in the biological, biomedical, and environmental sciences.


Using examples from past and current science, during the summer school, we will analyze and reflect together on experimental, conceptual, and theoretical practices and strategies that scientists from different disciplines in the life and medical sciences have created when dealing with complex living systems. The organizers aim to assemble a community of scholars addressing these issues from a wide variety of perspectives and whose research focuses on wide diversity of topics in the life sciences broadly conceived. The following areas of work serve to illustrate the sorts of issues that are in focus for the summer school, but it should be emphasized that EASPLS 2022 welcomes inputs and ideas that are not limited to the issues mentioned below.


Historical and current examples of dealing with complexity in disciplines and field such as:

  • Evolutionary biology and systematics, e.g. phylogenetic inference, evolutionary developmental biology.
    • Developmental biology, e.g., whole-organism lineage tracing
    • Genetics and genomics, e.g., genome-wide association studies, integrative data-clustering
    • Biological domains dealing with complex distributed systems, such as Neuroscience and Immunology
    • Clinical research, e.g., randomized controlled trials, real-world evidence
    • Cancer research, e.g., tumor typing.
    • Public Health, e.g. decision-making, policy-making
    • Personalized medicine e.g. diagnostic tool, interventions, and drug development
    • Molecular and systems biology, e.g., gene regulatory networks
    • Synthetic biology and genome editing  
    • Conservation sciences, e.g. systematic conservation planning and biodiversity
    • Climate change research, e.g., simulations, forecasting, scenarios, visioning
    • Sustainability science, e.g. transdisciplinary projects, real-world experimentation