knowledge – science – models

A simple model of knowledge production

The flux of everyday life — both physical and mental — surrounds and subsumes us. Amidst this flux we find ourselves immersed in life’s situations. Some situations are satisfying, others less so. These less-satisfying situations are perceived as areas of concern or opportunity. Perceiving an area of concern or opportunity, and developing a theory for [...]

Of foxes and hedgehogs: experts on expertise

Last week’s relaunch of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight has been a mess (see: ThinkProgress, Lawyers Guns Money, Krugman, Noahpinion). Doubling down on a theme from his book The Signal and the Noise, Silver branded himself with the sign of the fox — the fox that knows many things, and spurns the hedgehog’s one big thing. I’d complexify the [...]

Uses of scientific models: Fazey vs Lippitt

What is the role of science in society? It’s a critical question, involving: understandings of expertise, perceptions of credibility and legitimacy, methods for engaging with fact/value entanglements, and so on. One approach seeks to get at the role of science by examining the ways in which scientific concepts, or models, are used. Here are two [...]

Scardamalia and Bereiter: Knowledge of and about

“[T]he fundamental task of education is to enculturate youth into this knowledge-creating civilization and to help them find a place in it,” insist Marlene Scardamalia and Carl Bereiter in the 2006 article, “Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology.” Scardamalia and Bereiter, founders of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, have been experimenting with computer [...]

A science of analysis + synthesis

Analysis offers a science of parts, synthesis a science of the integration of parts. These are the thumbnail-sketch definitions used by Buzz Holling to describe “two very different ways of viewing the world.” Holling’s 1998 essay “Two Cultures of Ecology” was posted to “help shape the focus” for the then-new journal Conservation Ecology, now Ecology [...]

Mike Hulme: The value of climate consensus?

“The question I wish to answer can be put simply,” writes Mike Hulme, “does the pronouncement of a scientific consensus on an issue such as climate change increase or weaken the authority of science?” Hulme’s piece is published in “Future directions for scientific advice in Whitehall,” a collection of essays that mark the transition of [...]

Hamlet and the greenhouse effect as models

Think of everything humans create: from languages, to social institutions, scientific theories, works of art, and all the various artifacts that populate our lives. In philosopher-of-science Karl Popper’s 1978 lecture “Three Worlds,” he classified these products of human creation as belonging to “world 3.” According to Popper’s schema, world 1 consists of the physical and [...]

Valerie Brown on wicked problems

[I posted this week on the design approach to wicked problems advocated by Nigel Cross and the “clumsy” approach described by Steve Rayner. For comparison, here is a reprint of my April 2011 P&P post on transdisciplinarity and wickedness, the method outlined by Valerie Brown in Tackling Wicked Problems: Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination. I reviewed [...]

Brembs and Munafò: Abandon scientific journals

Neurobiologist Björn Brembs and biological psychologist Marcus Munafò in the paper “Deep Impact: Unintended consequences of journal rank”: [U]sing journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice. Moreover, the data lead us to argue that any journal rank (not only the currently-favored Impact Factor) would have this negative impact. Therefore, we suggest that [...]

Citizen science in 2012

“The task is to make visible the invisible, to expose to public scrutiny the assumptions, values and visions that drive science,” wrote James Wilsdon and Rebecca Willis in “See-through Science: Why public engagement needs to move upstream,” a 2004 publication from the UK think-tank Demos. With the 2012 Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) conference [...]

Ray Ison on science in the Anthropocene

Much discussion of this spring’s Planet under Pressure conference, which sought to “provide scientific leadership” in the run-up to Rio+20, was dominated by the brouhaha over planetary boundaries. But I recently caught a more interesting piece: a post-conference article by The Open University systems professor Ray Ison, who — in his commentary on the conference [...]

Commitment on salt

Gary Taubes writes in the NYT, “Salt, We Misjudged You”: “You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” as I was told then by Drummond Rennie, an editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association, that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond [...]

Bias in science

“Bias is an inescapable element of research,” writes Daniel Sarewitz in his latest Nature column (“Beware the creeping cracks of bias”). A cure for this. A “landmark study” on that. Society thrives on big-headline findings. Sarewitz writes: [A] powerful cultural belief is aligning multiple sources of scientific bias in the same direction. The belief is that [...]