The Cloud and the Crowd: Data/Science/Inquiry

The past decades have witnessed a series of technological shifts in the computational and statistical techniques that scientists use to collect, analyze, and share their data. These transitions do more than allow scientists to collect more data, faster than before; instead, their adoption seems to mark a set of transformations that have important implications for the nature of scientific inquiry. As early as 2008, for example, pop media outlets such as Wired were predicting “the end of theory,” based on the provocative claim that “the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete.” But underlying this Big Data hype are real technical and social tensions that are being negotiated across various scientific domains – from fields that have been computationally intensive for the past several decades, like physics, to fields like biology, which is increasingly availing itself of new computational tools alongside advances in sequencing and microscopy. Bringing together scholars from Science and Technology Studies, the History of Science, the Information School, Biology, and Physics, we inquire into scientific inquiry’s pasts, presents, and possible futures. What gets called “data” today, and how is the term used to expand or constrain scientific practice? Is the definition of a research problem changing? What constitutes good proof or evidence? Is hypothesis-driven research being replaced by data-driven research, or are there more complex articulations between these modes of scientific inquiry? What are the ramifications of these transitions, and how might they shape the future of scientific knowledge?


Data/Science/Inquiry Participants

Gloria Brar, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Jenna Burrell, Associate Professor, School of Information
Cathryn Carson, Associate Professor of History
Timothy K. Choy, Associate Professor of Anthropology UC Davis and Visiting Scholar at CSTMS
Nicholas D’Avella, Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society
Mila Djordjevic, Graduate Student, Anthropology
Paul Duguid, Adjunct Professor, School of Information
Cori Hayden, Associate Professor of Anthropology
Alexis Madrigal, Visiting Scholar, Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society
Massimo Mazzotti, Associate Professor of History
Hélène Mialet, Lecturer of Rhetoric, Visiting Scholar CSTMS
Fernando Perez, Research Scientist, Henry H. Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging Center
Beth Reid, Postdoctoral Scholar, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Anna-Lee Saxenian, Dean and Professor, iSchool and City & Regional Planning
Kimmen Sjölander, Professor of Bioengineering
Mario Wimmer, Assistant Adjunct Professor of Rhetoric
Jerry C. Zee, PhD Candidate, Anthropology
Caitlin Rosenthal, Assistant Professor of History


Funded by the UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix
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