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Circulating evidence across research contexts: the locality of data and claims in model organism research

Leonelli, Sabina (2008) Circulating evidence across research contexts: the locality of data and claims in model organism research. Working papers on the nature of evidence: how well do 'facts' travel? (25/08). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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In everyday scientific practice, facts come in two sizes: small facts (data acquired by researchers through experimentation or field work), and big facts (claims about phenomena for which data function as evidence). This paper explores the processes through which small and big facts are circulated and used across research contexts in model organism biology. This leads me to challenge the standard philosophical characterisation of data as embedded in the context in which they are produced (and hence “local”) and of claims about phenomena as retaining their significance beyond that context (hence “non-local”). I argue that the degrees of locality of both small and big facts are not intrinsic to their epistemic status, but rather vary depending on the packaging used to make them travel. As illustrated in the case of bioinformatics, packaging processes include recourse to appropriate labels, vehicles and expertise. Facts about organisms travel well when they are temporarily liberated from information about their context of production, thus becoming non-local entities that can be recruited across new contexts. At the same time, information about provenance needs to be included in the packaging of facts, so as to enable prospective users to assess their reliability.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2009 16:42
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:45
Projects: Large-Scale Technological Change
Funders:, Economic and Social Research Council

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