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The Epistemology of Data-Intensive Science

1 March 2014 - 28 February 2019

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Sabina Leonelli

Funding awarded: £ 886,696

Sponsor(s): European Research Council

Project webpage(s)

The Epistemology of Data-Intensive Science

About the research

This project aims to analyse how research practices are changing in the digital age, and examine how this affects current understandings of scientific epistemology within the philosophy of science and beyond. The scale of scientific data production has massively increased over the last decades, raising urgent questions about how scientists are to transform the resulting masses of data into useful knowledge. A technical solution to this problem is offered by technologies for the storage, dissemination and handling of data over the internet, including online databases that enable scientists to retrieve and analyse vast amounts of data of potential relevance to their research. These technologies are having a profound effect on what counts as scientific knowledge and on how that knowledge is obtained and used. Surprisingly, the characteristics and philosophical implications of this emerging way of doing science have not yet been extensively and systematically analysed. This is partly due to the relative scarcity of empirical, qualitative research on how data disseminated online are actually used across scientific fields; and partly to the lack of scholarship bringing results from social and historical studies of data-intensive research to bear on philosophical accounts of scientific methods, practices and knowledge. This project aims to fill this gap by combining the analytic apparatus developed by philosophers of science with empirical, qualitative methods used by social scientists to investigate cutting-edge scientific practices.