14 de diciembre de 2017

CfP: 'Exploratory Models and Exploratory Modelling in Science', special issue of Perspectives on Science

THEME: Exploratory Models and Exploratory Modelling in Science
GUEST EDITORS: Axel Gelfert, Grant Fisher, Friedrich Steinle

Unlike scientific experimentation, whose frequent exploratory uses have garnered considerable attention from historians and philosophers of science over the past two decades (cf. Steinle 1997, Burian 1997), the exploratory character of scientific models and scientific modelling has only recently begun to receive systematic treatment. Over the last couple of years, a number of case studies have deployed the labels ‘exploratory models’ or ‘exploratory modelling’ (e.g. Fisher 2016, Shech 2017) to describe episodes of scientific modelling during which the existence of an accepted body of theoretical knowledge cannot be assumed, or is itself at issue. In addition, there have been attempts to distinguish between, and classify, different exploratory functions of scientific models (Gelfert 2016), such as their use as starting points for future inquiry, as proofs of principle (e.g. regarding the viability of a proposed new method), as potential explanations, and as ways of testing the suitability and epistemic stability of the purported target system. Implicit in this taxonomy is the acknowledgement that any initial list of exploratory uses of scientific models is likely to be incomplete and itself subject to revision.

Labelling any episode of scientific research – including cases of scientific modelling – ‘exploratory’ is intended to convey more than just a sense of its priority in the chronological order of events. Rather, the label ‘exploratory’ pertains to a particular mode of doing science: one that aims at getting a grasp of a phenomenon or scientific problem in the absence of a well-understood and workable theory of the domain in question. By contrast, in those cases that have traditionally received the most attention – especially from philosophers of science – it is typically assumed that a significant prior body of theoretical knowledge is available and, in turn, suggests (not by itself, but in the hands of appropriately trained scientists) a way of rendering the phenomenon theoretically tractable, at least in principle. In exploratory research, this assumption is acknowledged to be no longer tenable. Also, while the term ‘exploratory model’ can be expected to have significant overlap with related notions (such as ‘toy model’, ‘minimal model’, or ‘substitute model’), it would be hasty to assimilate the former to the latter: exploration is neither a matter of mere chronology, nor of degree of abstraction or realism.

The proposed special issue aims to deepen our appreciation of the extent to which scientific models can serve as exploratory tools and to sharpen our understanding of what – beyond their empirical performance – makes some exploratory models more fruitful than others. Finally, an important concern will be with the legitimacy and the limitations of exploratory models (and of claims derived on their basis).

We welcome submissions that integrate historical, philosophical, and sociological perspectives and engage with recent scholarship on the matter. The overarching goal is to foster an interdisciplinary conversation concerning the character, potential, and limitations of the practice of exploratory modelling.

Submissions should be sent to a.gelfert@tu-berlin.de, no later than 30 June 2018.

Submissions should not exceed 7,500 words, include a 200-word abstract, be prepared in accordance with the journal’s formatting guidelines, and must be prepared for blind review.


For enquiries, please contact the guest editors.