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What Counts as Scientific Data? A Relational Framework

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2022

Abstract

This paper proposes an account of scientific data that makes sense of recent debates on data-driven and ‘big data’ research, while also building on the history of data production and use particularly within biology. In this view, ‘data’ is a relational category applied to research outputs that are taken, at specific moments of inquiry, to provide evidence for knowledge claims of interest to the researchers involved. They do not have truth-value in and of themselves, nor can they be seen as straightforward representations of given phenomena. Rather, they are fungible objects defined by their portability and prospective usefulness as evidence.

Type
Models and Measurement
Copyright
Copyright © The Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

This research was funded by a Visiting Scholarship of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (project “Sciences of the Archive”) and by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 335925 (project “The Epistemology of Data-Intensive Science”). Many thanks to audiences at the 2014 meeting of the German Network for the Philosophy of Biology in Münster, the 2014 PSA/HSS meeting in Chicago, and the 2014 ERC Workshop “What Is Data-Intensive Science?” in Exeter, where this paper was presented and discussed, and particularly to Lorraine Daston, James Griesemer, Mary Morgan, Staffan Müller-Wille, Thomas Reydon, and David Sepkoski for useful discussions.

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