PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Symposium: Data in Time: The Epistemology of Historical Data

Saturday, 5 November 2016
09:00 - 11:45

Piedmont 2 (12th Floor)

Chair: James McAllister, University of Leiden

This symposium aims to identify and investigate the epistemological concerns and challenges involved in processing data to facilitate their preservation and analysis in the long term. Debates over data handling, and particularly the epistemic significance of “open” and “big” data, are ubiquitous in contemporary science. While philosophers of science are starting to engage with the forms and diversity of data practices and methods of inference across disciplines, less attention has been devoted to the conditions under which data can be preserved, disseminated and analyzed through time, so as to enable researchers to build on past efforts and boost future research. These concerns are particularly significant in fields where data acquired in previous periods can play a crucial role as evidence for subsequent research, and/or investigators can spend a lifetime investigating and revisiting the same datasets. Within the symposium, speakers will consider and compare the epistemic implications of such challenges in the fields of biology, archaeology, paleontology, and medicine.

Time-Scales of Data Use: On the Life Cycles, Ontology and Understanding of Biological Data
Sabina Leonelli, University of Exeter,
Legacy Data, Radiocarbon Dating and Robustness Reasoning
Alison Wylie, University of Washington / Durham University,
Visualization, Narrative, and Historical Data: Paleontology in the 19th Century
David Sepkoski, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science,
Preserving and Re-using Case Reports: On Data Standardisation in Medicine
Rachel Ankeny, University of Adelaide,
James McAllister, University of Leiden,


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