Gregor Halfmann

Department: Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology
Discipline: Sociology and Philosophy
Research Centre/Unit: Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences

Project Summary

Working title: "On the material origins of scientific data"

I study the epistemology of ocean sciences on the basis of ethnographic case studies in biological oceanography and marine biology. The main philosophical questions I am trying to address are concerned with materiality, data practices, modelling, and scientific representations.

Still containing vastly unexplored and inaccessible spaces, the world oceans pose great problems for scientists, who want to create knowledge of the oceans’ physical, chemical, biological, or geological processes. Creating useful representations of the ocean’s properties, processes, and populations often entails high logistical demands and economic costs. Oceanographers have thus developed numerous ways of creating data by incorporating actors, infrastructures, and systems that already interact with or populate the oceans into the epistemic process.

My project studies such efforts and the creation of scientific knowledge from material entities. I distinguish between the research components "samples" and "data" and emphasise the importance of samples and their materiality for the creation, analysis, and re.use of scientific data. I intend to develop a view of modelling an ecosystem by creating, analysing, and storing materials of the research target and by establishing various representations through the analysis of material samples. I further study the adjustment and of scientific practice in response to evolving knowledge, new technology, and historical change.