Computer Simulation, Measurement, and Data Assimilation

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (1):273-304 (2017)
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This article explores some of the roles of computer simulation in measurement. A model-based view of measurement is adopted and three types of measurement—direct, derived, and complex—are distinguished. It is argued that while computer simulations on their own are not measurement processes, in principle they can be embedded in direct, derived, and complex measurement practices in such a way that simulation results constitute measurement outcomes. Atmospheric data assimilation is then considered as a case study. This practice, which involves combining information from conventional observations and simulation-based forecasts, is characterized as a complex measuring practice that is still under development. The case study reveals challenges that are likely to resurface in other measuring practices that embed computer simulation. It is also noted that some practices that embed simulation are difficult to classify; they suggest a fuzzy boundary between measurement and non-measurement. 1 Introduction2 A Contemporary View of Measurement3 Three Types of Measurement4 Can Computer Simulations Measure Real-World Target Systems?5 Case Study: Atmospheric Data Assimilation5.1 Why data assimilation?5.2 A complex measuring practice under development5.3 Epistemic iteration6 The Boundaries of Measurement7 Epistemology, Not Terminology.



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Wendy Parker
Virginia Tech

Citations of this work

Data models, representation and adequacy-for-purpose.Alisa Bokulich & Wendy Parker - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-26.
Measurement in Science.Eran Tal - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Securing the Empirical Value of Measurement Results.Kent W. Staley - 2020 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 71 (1):87-113.
Computer Simulations in Science.Eric Winsberg - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Old and New Problems in Philosophy of Measurement.Eran Tal - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (12):1159-1173.
The concept of observation in science and philosophy.Dudley Shapere - 1982 - Philosophy of Science 49 (4):485-525.
Basic Concepts of Measurement.Brian Ellis - 1968 - Cambridge University Press.

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