MSIO

Making Scientific Inferences More Objective

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The Project in a Nutshell

This research project started in September 2015 and is supposed to run until August 2020. It is hosted by the Center for Logic, Language and Cognition (LLC) at the University of Turin (Piedmont, Northwestern Italy) and funded with a Starting Investigator Grant of the European Research Council (1,500,000 €). Until October 2017, it was  hosted by the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS) at Tilburg University In the project, we study scientific inferences—in particular statistical, explanatory and causal inferences—and try to make them more objective. Methods and topics range from formal reasoning models to proposals to change the academic credit reward system. Be welcome!

Who We Are

We are a group of four people: Jan Sprenger (left), the Principal Investigator, Mattia Andreoletti, postdoctoral researcher (second from right) and two PhD students: Michal Sikorski (right) and Noah van Dongen (second from left). Check out the team page if you want to know more! Below, we give a short overview of the project (click here for more detailed information). Up to April 2018, also Felipe Romero (not in the picture) was part of the project as a postdoctoral researcher.

Balancing philosophical analysis with scientific modeling

Scientific method is often suspected to promote bias instead of truth. Replications of experiments often fail to produce the original results (look here for a particularly devastating case from psychology). Climate scientists are publicly criticized for their data processing. The framing of risk in medicine often leads to overestimation of treatment effects, and affects’ patients preferences for are particular drug. How does this all square with the idea that science is our best, and most objective source of knowledge?

The project responds to these worries by investigating three crucial aspects of scientific inference:

  • statistical reasoning;
  • causal reasoning;
  • explanatory (=abductive) reasoning.

We argue that the source of bias in science can quite often be found at a foundational reasoning level. We combine a philosophical analysis of scientific objectivity with ameliorating and integrating statistical, causal and explanatory reasoning. To this end, we use formal mathematical models (e.g, we develop new measures of causal strength, and new statistical techniques), but also conceptual analysis, experiments about how scientists and laypersons reason under uncertainty, and computer simulations.

All in all, the project lays new foundations for objectivity in scientific reasoning. At the same time, it develops proposals how scientific practice can benefit from these philosophical advances.

 european-research-councilThis project is funded by the European Research Council, Grant No. 640638, “Making Scientific Inferences More Objective”

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The project is hosted by the University of Turin, Italy.

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