Scientific classification has long been recognized as involving a specific style of reasoning and doing research, and as occasionally affecting the development of scientific theories. However, the role played by classificatory activities in generating theories has not been closely investigated within the philosophy of science. I argue that classificatory systems can themselves become a form of theory, which I call classificatory theory, when they come to formalize and express the scientific significance of the elements being classified. This is particularly evident (...) in some of the classification practices used in contemporary experimental biology, such as bio-ontologies used to classify genomic data and typologies used to classify “normal” stages of development in developmental biology. In this paper, I explore some characteristics of classificatory theories and ways in which they differ from other types of scientific theories and other components of scientific epistemology, such as models and background assumptions. (shrink)
Knowledge-making practices in biology are being strongly affected by the availability of data on an unprecedented scale, the insistence on systemic approaches and growing reliance on bioinformatics and digital infrastructures. What role does theory play within data-intensive science, and what does that tell us about scientific theories in general? To answer these questions, I focus on Open Biomedical Ontologies, digital classification tools that have become crucial to sharing results across research contexts in the biological and biomedical sciences, and argue that (...) they constitute an example of classificatory theory. This form of theorizing emerges from classification practices in conjunction with experimental know-how and expresses the knowledge underpinning the analysis and interpretation of data disseminated online. (shrink)
Karen-Sue Taussig: Ordinary Genomes: Science, Citizenship and Genetic Identities Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s10441-012-9150-8 Authors Sabina Leonelli, Department of Sociology and Philosophy, ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, UK Journal Acta Biotheoretica Online ISSN 1572-8358 Print ISSN 0001-5342.
This paper aims to identify the key characteristics of model organisms that make them a specific type of model within the contemporary life sciences: in particular, we argue that the term “model organism” does not apply to all organisms used for the purposes of experimental research. We explore the differences between experimental and model organisms in terms of their material and epistemic features, and argue that it is essential to distinguish between their representational scope and representational target. We also examine (...) the characteristics of the communities who use these two types of models, including their research goals, disciplinary affiliations, and preferred practices to show how these have contributed to the conceptualization of a model organism. We conclude that model organisms are a specific subgroup of organisms that have been standardized to fit an integrative and comparative mode of research, and that it must be clearly distinguished from the broader class of experimental organisms. In addition, we argue that model organisms are the key components of a unique and distinctively biological way of doing research using models. (shrink)
Bogen and Woodward characterized data as embedded in the context in which they are produced (‘local’) and claims about phenomena as retaining their significance beyond that context (‘nonlocal’). This view does not fit sciences such as biology, which successfully disseminate data via packaging processes that include appropriate labels, vehicles, and human interventions. These processes enhance the evidential scope of data and ensure that claims about phenomena are understood in the same way across research communities. I conclude that the degree of (...) locality of both data and claims about phenomena varies depending on the packaging used to make them travel and on the research setting in which they are used. †To contact the author, please write to: ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, Byrne House, St. Germans Road, EX4 4PJ Exeter, United Kingdom; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
Arabidopsis is currently the most popular and well-researched model organism in plant biology. This paper documents this plant's rise to scientific fame by focusing on two interrelated aspects of Arabidopsis research. One is the extent to which the material features of the plant have constrained research directions and enabled scientific achievements. The other is the crucial role played by the international community of Arabidopsis researchers in making it possible to grow, distribute and use plant specimen that embody these material features. (...) I argue that at least part of the explosive development of this research community is due to its successful standardisation and to the subsequent use of Arabidopsis specimen as material models of plants. I conclude that model organisms have a double identity as both samples of nature and artifacts representing nature. It is the resulting ambivalence in their representational value that makes them attractive research tools for biologists. (shrink)