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Letter from the editor | 322

New definitions and diagnoses

What is a museum? The question doesn’t seem particularly difficult to answer. The Merriam-Webster dictionary, for example, describes it as “an institution devoted to the procurement, care, study, and display of objects of lasting interest or value.”

The International Council of Museums, based in Paris, has spent the last six years coming up with a new definition. The concept is being revisited to expand on the traditional idea of a place for preserving, exhibiting, and studying tangible and intangible cultural human heritage, moving to include a more up-to-date notion of museums as centers that promote social development, actively engaged in political and social issues.

The impacts of the debate and the new definition are already visible in the curatorial decisions being made by some museums and exhibitions. This issue’s cover story describes some of the paths that have been followed, including the participation of various sectors of society, the rediscovery of artifacts in technical archives, and the re-presentation of works from a critical perspective rather than as a strict portrait of reality. Journalist Christina Queiroz takes the reader through the conceptual issues and their applications in historical, ethnographic, and art museums.

Redefinition is also a feature of the work of Maria Cristina Kupfer, who is dedicated to improving inclusion for children with psychosis and autism. With a career that has combined psychology and education, she adds a psychological dimension to the neurological diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, seeing autism as a way of being. For Kupfer, because the psyche is built on relationships with others, children with neurological development problems face difficulties building these connections. Therapeutic treatments, she argues, can help individuals deal with the anguish of being around others.

Healthcare is benefiting from important advances towards more accurate diagnoses. A significant drop in the cost of DNA sequencing over the last two decades has increased access to information about genes; analyses of large volumes of data from sequencers are facilitated by improved bioinformatics tools. Precision medicine is getting closer, although still not available to the majority of the population and restricted to certain rare diseases caused by defects in a single gene and specific cardiac and metabolic problems or types of cancer.

Some of these bioinformatics tools use artificial intelligence (AI), with algorithms accessing enormous data sets, identifying patterns, and suggesting solutions quickly and (hopefully) with a high success rate. There has been heavy investment in AI, which is seen as a means of improving health services and is beginning to be used in disease diagnosis and screening, clinical care support, disease surveillance, health system management, and other applications. But there are many significant challenges still to overcome: technical, ethical, and legal issues prevent the widespread use of AI in medicine.

This is our last issue of the year and we always welcome the opportunity to thank our readers, as well as everyone who tunes in to our radio show and podcast, watches our videos, subscribes to our newsletters, and follows us on social media. The Pesquisa FAPESP team wishes you all a wonderful 2023, full of science and informed decisions.