Thoughts and Theory

Epistemic Humility and Standpoint Theory for doing data science better

Colourful bokeh — a myriad if blurry and colourful dots, almost like data. If only we knew what they represented!
Colourful bokeh — a myriad if blurry and colourful dots, almost like data. If only we knew what they represented!
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Data science is, basically, the science of data. It seeks to generate actionable knowledge about the world by studying data. By “actionable knowledge”, I mean knowledge that can be drawn on by other researchers and policymakers to continue advancing how society interacts with the world and understands itself. Therefore, I assume that scientific inquiries generally seek to produce knowledge that can be acted on. However, the way in which we treat data in the context of data science will impact whether or not analyses result in actionable knowledge that is relevant to the real world. …

Colourful balls of wool
Colourful balls of wool
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

It is hard to create a value system held by all within an organisation, not to say impossible. But it is also questionable whether diverse value systems should be allow to wander too far and detract from an otherwise coherent narrative across an organisation. After all, an organisation’s brand — in the broadest sense — could become hard to identify and engage with. An organisation whose values are manifold and unpredictable will become a source of uncertainty for people when considering to work with it — whether an employee, an investor, a buyer, a supplier… But variety of value systems…

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

A paper flutters by one of its corners, as if trying to escape from the tall grass it has entangled itself in, pulling in the opposite direction of the menacing fence behind it. Suddenly a great shadow covers the morning sun and reaches down for the paper. As it gets closer, it becomes an inquisitive face. …

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Organisational values are not a new concept — as most concepts. They are embedded in mission and vision statements, policies and employee handbooks of organisations all over the world. They might have stronger roots in the corporate world, but charities and NGOs all over the planet are learning just how useful sharing some formalised set of values is. Organisational values become important tools in the hands of recruitment teams, marketing departments and senior management. They help pitch an organisation to current and future employees, sell products and services to consumers and forge relationships with business partners. But it is hard…

Steampunk hat and goggles sit atop a wiry lightbulb
Steampunk hat and goggles sit atop a wiry lightbulb
Image by Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

What makes research ethical? There are many ways we can approach this question. One way is from the tradition of philosophy of science. Here, we can ask about the many “value judgements” made throughout a research project; for example, how one decides what to study, or how it is reasoned that some data collection method is better than another. Values might here be categorised as epistemic and non-epistemic or contextual. “Objectivity”, “truth” and “neutrality” would be deemed epistemic values — clearly valuable to science. In the meantime, other values that do not initially strike us as playing a role in…

Molecules joining together
Molecules joining together
Image by WikimediaImages on Pixabay

I will name Multidisciplinary Epistemic Groups (MEGs) those collaborative research groups formed for the purpose of seeking a response to complex scientific questions by employing different research methods and disciplines. I will refrain from discussing the differences between multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and so on (for this, see, inter alia, Blackwell, 1955; Rosenfeld 1992, and Choi & Pak, 2006, in the context of health research; Stember, 2005, in the context of the social sciences; Wilshire, 1990, and Nicolescu, 2005, in the context of education; Isemonger, 2018, on their conceptual distinctions within the digital humanities). …

Red lines form a network upon a white background
Red lines form a network upon a white background
Image by Sophy James

We* were really pleased to organise and host a philosophy conference as postgraduates from the Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method department at the London School of Economics. The conference ran two full days on 11 and 12 September 2020, and was packed with excellent speakers and varied topics. We want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the speakers who made it and were patient with the technical limitations, to those who couldn’t join for different reasons, and to the audience who kept the excellent questions coming.

The purpose of the conference was to bring philosophers together at a time of…

A tree sits atop a green hill and beneath a blue sky with pink and grey clouds
A tree sits atop a green hill and beneath a blue sky with pink and grey clouds

Corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) advisors and strategists feed into the system that oppresses the marginalised groups they seek to support. Why do I think this? It comes down to one premise: society as we know it is inherently racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative, ageist and oppressive in countless other ways. The “inclusion” part of D&I, thus, means that we are asking those who are oppressed to participate in the machine that oppresses them in the first place. The argument is as follows:

  1. D&I initiatives seek to include people from marginalised backgrounds in aspects of society that usually elude them, and
Nine diagonally placed strips of play dough, gradually changing colour from red on the left to dark purple on the right
Nine diagonally placed strips of play dough, gradually changing colour from red on the left to dark purple on the right
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Have you ever questioned how it is possible to speak of The Scientific Method as if there were only one, whilst knowing that different sciences work in fundamentally different ways? Have you ever wondered how different sciences emerge and disappear throughout the ages? It seems that Science is shaped by the very evolution of human society. Science responds precisely to what is expected from it given a social context. And yet we speak of The Scientific Method as if immutable. So, what do we mean by “scientific method”? Let me use an outrageous analogy.

Imagine a jazz quartet (this analogy…

Data is a term that is thrown about a lot these days. Whether in the context of Data Science, Big Data and AI, or data-driven business solutions, data-backed policy-making and so on, data is always there, lurking, ready to pounce and make an assertion seem more insightful. This “insight,” I propose, is fundamental to data. In other words, the nature of data is its having meaning to people. There is no data out there in the world, unperturbed by human interaction, so to speak. …

Ismael Kherroubi Garcia

Curious about life, society and the way we all interact and communicate.

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