MSIO

Making Scientific Inferences More Objective

About the Project

This research project started in September 2015 and is supposed to run until August 2020. It is hosted by the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS) at Tilburg University and funded with a Starting Investigator Grant of the European Research Council (1,500,000 €). For particle physicists and other scientists who need heavy equipment, this sum may look like peanuts. But it is a fair amount of money if your aim is to study scientific inferences and to make them more objective. This is what we try to do in this project. Welcome!

Who We Are

We are a group of four people: Jan Sprenger (second from left), the Principal Investigator, Felipe Romero (right),  postdoctoral researcher, and two PhD students: Michal Sikorski (left) and Noah van Dongen (second from right). 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).

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 team is part of the Tilburg Center for Logic, Ethics, and Philosophy of Science

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The project is based at the Tilburg University, the Netherlands