Ken Aiello’s Dissertation Defense

  • Posted on: 8 November 2018
  • By: admin

On November 7, 2018, Ken Aiello successfully defended his dissertation titled “Systematic Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the Variation and Change of the Microbiome Concept.” He will continue his research as a postdoctoral researcher in the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative. The Laubichler Lab congratulates Dr. Aiello on a job well done!

Want to know what Aiello’s dissertation is about? Read the abstract!

Systematic Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the Variation and Change of the Microbiome Concept


Understanding changes and trends in biomedical knowledge is crucial for individuals, groups, and institutions as biomedicine improves people’s lives, supports national economies, and facilitates innovation. However, as knowledge changes what measurable evidence illustrates that knowledge changes? In the case of the microbiome, a multi-dimensional concept from biomedicine, there are significant increases in publications, citations, funding, collaborations, and other explanatory variables or contextual factors. What is observed in the microbiome or any historical evolution of a scientific field or scientific knowledge, is that these changes are related to changes in knowledge, but what is not understood is how to systematically measure and track changes in knowledge. This investigation highlights how contextual factors from the language and social context of the microbiome are related to changes in the usage, meaning, and scientific knowledge on the microbiome. Two interconnected studies systematically examining the variation and change of the microbiome via qualitative and quantitative evidence are presented. First, the concepts microbiome, metagenome, and metabolome are compared to determine the boundaries of the microbiome concept in relation to other concepts where the conceptual boundaries have been cited as overlapping. A collection of publications for each concept or corpus is presented, with a focus on how to create, clean, and curate large data collections. This study concludes with suggestions on how to analyze biomedical concepts using a hybrid approach that combines results from the larger language context and individual words. Second, the results of a systematic review that synthesizes the variation and change of microbiome research, funding, and knowledge is explored. A corpus of approximately 28,000 articles on the microbiome are characterized, and a spectrum of microbiome interpretations based on differences related to context are described. The overall results indicate the microbiome is a separate concept from the metagenome and metabolome, and the variation and change to the microbiome concept was influenced by contextual factors. The findings also suggest the systematic conceptual change of the microbiome is either representative of how concepts supported by extensive resources behave within biomedicine or a preview of future new dynamics within science.