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From Administrative Infrastructure to Biomedical Resource: Danish Population Registries, the “Scandinavian Laboratory,” and the “Epidemiologist's Dream”

  • Susanne Bauer (a1)

Since the 1970s, Danish population registries were increasingly used for research purposes, in particular in the health sciences. Linked with a large number of disease registries, these data infrastructures became laboratories for the development of both information technology and epidemiological studies. Denmark's system of population registries had been centralized in 1924 and was further automated in the 1960s, with individual identification numbers (CPR-numbers) introduced in 1968. The ubiquitous presence of CPR-numbers in administrative routines and everyday lives created a continually growing data archive of the entire population. The resulting national-level database made possible unprecedented record linkage, a feature epidemiologists and biomedical scientists used as a resource for population health research. The specific assemblages that emerged with their practices of data mining were constitutive of registry-based epidemiology as a style of thought and of a distinct relationship between science, citizens, and the state that emerged as “Scandinavian.”

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