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How Well Do Facts Travel?
The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge

$41.99 (P)

  • Editors:
  • Peter Howlett, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics and Political Science
Mary S. Morgan, Simona Valeriani, Lambert Schneider, Sarah J. Whatmore, Catharina Landström, Naomi Oreskes, Jon Adams, Richard Burkhardt, Ed Ramsden, Rachel Ankeny, Peter Howlett, Aashish Velkar, Alison Wylie, Sabina Leonelli, Martina Merz, Erika Mansnerus, David Haycock, Heather Schell
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  • Date Published: November 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521159586

$ 41.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Why write about facts? Facts are everywhere. They litter the utterances of public life as much as the private conversations of individuals. They frequent the humanities and the sciences in equal measure. But their very ubiquity tells us not only why it is difficult to form general but sensible answers in response to seemingly simple questions about facts, but also why it is important to do so. This book discusses how facts travel, and when and why they sometimes travel well enough to acquire a life of their own. Whether or not facts travel in this manner depends not only on their character and ability to play useful roles elsewhere, but also on the labels, packaging, vehicles, and company that take them across difficult terrains and over disciplinary boundaries. These diverse stories of traveling facts, ranging from architecture to nanotechnology and from romance fiction to climate science, change the way we see the nature of facts. Facts are far from the bland and rather boring but useful objects that scientists and humanists produce and fit together to make narratives, arguments, and evidence. Rather, their extraordinary abilities to travel well – and to fly flags of many different colors in the process – shows when, how, and why facts can be used to build further knowledge beyond and away from their sites of original production and intended use.

    • Takes a new look at a simple problem which is important for science, humanities and society, but very difficult to answer: why do some facts travel well?
    • Examines how academics communicate with each other and wider society on topics such as climate change, technology transfer, public health and urban planning
    • A fascinating and useful look at a highly important but often overlooked topic
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “This fascinating interdisciplinary collection arising from an extraordinary international collaboration is a significant and innovative contribution to a crucial question in science and technology studies: what do we mean by a ‘fact’? New light is thrown on this old question by a fresh focus on the transmission and transformation of facts between different contexts, with very welcome attention to neglected subject areas, too. It is an intellectual feast of a volume, with plenty of food for thought for historians, philosophers, and natural and social scientists, especially those who are uncomfortable sitting in conventional disciplinary pigeonholes.”
    – Hasok Chang, University of Cambridge

    “This is a lively and diverse collection of essays about the lives of facts: ‘shared pieces of knowledge that hold the qualities of being autonomous, short, specific and reliable.’ The book is not so much about what facts are, but about what makes them travel – across space, time, and social worlds – and what gives them character. Focusing on the engaging question, what makes some facts travel well, that is, with integrity, yet with the ability to be put fruitfully to new uses, the book provides such a rich survey of curious, prosaic, profound, and false – as well as true – facts that readers will want to try their hand at grand theorizing, which the authors have politely and wisely refrained from doing. It will be an interesting experiment to see how well these facts about facts travel, and where.”
    – James Griesemer, University of California, Davis

    “How Well Do Facts Travel? accomplishes the uncommon feat of bringing fresh thinking to a most common phenomenon. Far more than merely contextualizing the use of ‘facts’ in myriad fields, this eye-opening and deeply thoughtful collection of essays sets facts in motion, models their dynamics, and maps their travels. Adventurous yet grounded, the group of scholars engages and challenges assumptions in disciplines ranging from history and archaeology to economics and policy to biology and design.”
    – Randall Mason, University of Pennsylvania

    “Stemming from a five-year group multidisciplinary research project, How Well Do Facts Travel? is a welcome and insightful contribution to the growing bodies of scholarship on comparative and historical epistemology, cultural and technological transfer, social networking, and the philosophies of the social and physical sciences. As with the work of Daston, Poovey, and Latour, this diverse and compelling collection of essays will be as usefully provocative to scholars in the arts and humanities as it will to those in the sciences.”
    – Mark A. Meadow, University of California, Santa Barbara; Leiden University, the Netherlands

    “How Well Do Facts Travel? provides an usual perspective on science and its communication by dealing with the ‘lives of facts’ and their constitution, development, and circulation, in disciplines as diverse as architecture and social psychology, climate science, and gerontology.”
    – Staffan Mueller-Wille, University of Exeter

    “How Well Do Facts Travel? edited by Peter Howlett and Mary S. Morgan is an impressive exploration – interdisciplinary in character – of the circulation of ‘facts’ in a number of areas spanning both the natural and social sciences and the humanities as well. Science studies abound in work on the vagaries of metaphors, models, and images. Curiously, so far, facts have hardly been included in this list. Peter Howlett and Mary Morgan’s assessment of less the production of facts but what makes them travel and how traveling transforms them opens a new horizon. The authors of the volume address the topic with subtleness and sovereignty, covering a broad range of carefully chosen case studies.”
    – Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Director, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

    “Philosophers of science have long talked about fruitfulness as a criteria of scientific merit. This collection asks how ideas – or facts – actually get to be recognized and used; it is a major contribution that greatly deepens this important problem.”
    – Stephen P. Turner, University of South Florida

    "....The authors explore the ties and the tensions between “integrity” and “fertility” of travel, involving a dialogue of replication and variation.... a variety of perspectives on the problem of travel, presented in papers, often attractively written, that take seriously their particular topics."
    >–Theodore M. Porter, University of California, Los Angeles, SCIENCE

    "....This superb volume is for all sociologists and philosophers of science, policy planners, and yes, scientists.... Highly recommended...."
    >–D.B. Boersema, Pacific University, CHOICE

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521159586
    • length: 486 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 51 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Travelling facts Mary S. Morgan
    Part I. Matters of Fact:
    2. Facts and building artefacts: what travels in material objects? Simona Valeriani
    3. A journey through times and cultures? Ancient Greek forms in American nineteenth-century architecture: an archaeological view Lambert Schneider
    4. Manning's N: putting roughness to work Sarah J. Whatmore and Catharina Landström
    5. My facts are better than your facts: spreading good news about global warming Naomi Oreskes
    6. Real problems with fictional cases Jon Adams
    Part II. Integrity and Fruitfulness:
    7. Ethology's travelling facts Richard Burkhardt
    8. Travelling facts about crowded rats: rodent experimentation and the human sciences Ed Ramsden
    9. Using cases to establish novel diagnoses: creating generic facts by making particular facts travel together Rachel Ankeny
    10. Technology transfer and travelling facts: a perspective from Indian agriculture Peter Howlett and Aashish Velkar
    11. Archaeological facts in transit: the eminent mounds of central North America Alison Wylie
    Part III. Companionship and Character:
    12. Packaging small facts for re-use: databases in model organism biology Sabina Leonelli
    13. Designed for travel: communicating facts through images Martina Merz
    14. Using models to keep us healthy: the productive journeys of facts across public health research networks Erika Mansnerus
    15. The facts of life and death: a case of exceptional longevity David Haycock
    16. Love life of a fact Heather Schell.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Science, Technology and International Policy
    • Sociology of Knowledge
  • Editors

    Peter Howlett, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Peter Howlett is an expert on the economic history of the First and Second World Wars and contributed the text for the official history: Fighting with Figures. Dr Howlett's publications also explore international economic growth and convergence since 1870 and the development of internal labor markets and have appeared in edited volumes and journals such as the Economic History Review, Explorations in Economic History and Business History. He teaches at the London School of Economics and is Secretary of the Economic History Society.

    Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics and Political Science
    Mary S. Morgan is Professor of History and Philosophy of Economics at the London School of Economics and the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on topics ranging from statistics to experiments to narrative, and from social Darwinism in late-nineteenth-century America to game theory in the Cold War. Her major works include The History of Econometric Ideas (Cambridge, 1990), The Foundations of Econometric Analysis (Cambridge, 1995, co-edited with David F. Hendry), and Models as Mediators (Cambridge, 1999, co-edited with Margaret Morrison). Professor Morgan's account of scientific modeling is forthcoming in The World in the Model. She is currently engaged in the research project 'Re-Thinking Case Studies Across the Social Sciences' as a British Academy-Wolfson Research Professor.


    Mary S. Morgan, Simona Valeriani, Lambert Schneider, Sarah J. Whatmore, Catharina Landström, Naomi Oreskes, Jon Adams, Richard Burkhardt, Ed Ramsden, Rachel Ankeny, Peter Howlett, Aashish Velkar, Alison Wylie, Sabina Leonelli, Martina Merz, Erika Mansnerus, David Haycock, Heather Schell

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