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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Cutting-edge Computation and Scientific Evidence Workshop

3rd March 2016, 09:00 to 17:00, Lakeside Dining Room, Van Mildert College, Dr Wendy Parker

Over the last several decades, computational methodologies have transformed the practice of science. Computer simulation gave rise to the first wave of transformation, cutting across the traditional methodological categories of theorizing and experimenting: it allowed scientists to apply theories that were otherwise mathematically intractable, even as the practice of simulation modelling bore notable resemblance to experimentation. Today, advanced computational methods permeate scientific practice across a range of fields. In a number of contexts, these methods are integral to the production and/or interpretation of evidence. Advanced computational methods are used, for instance, in the interpretation of observational data in cosmology; in fMRI studies of brain function; in the production of observational datasets in climate science; and in drug selection in personalized medicine.

At the same time, the use of these methods leads to challenging questions about the nature of the evidence produced. What evidence do fMRI images provide about the brains of subjects, given the complex computational processing involved in their production? If, as exciting new research suggests, computer simulations can provide evidence that certain drugs will be more effective than others in treating HIV in a particular person, does that evidence have a different status than evidence collected in clinical trials? And so on. Within scientific communities, the evidential status of results produced with the help of complex computational methods is often contested.

This one-day workshop will bring together scientists from a variety of fields as well as philosophers of science to explore challenging questions about evidence arising from the use of advanced computational methods in science. The focus will be not on the technical details of advanced computational methods but on the types of challenges involved in using as evidence scientific results that are produced with the help of such methods. The aim is to stimulate cross-disciplinary dialogue, identifying similarities and differences in types of the challenges faced as well as the strategies used to try to overcome them.

Speakers include: -

Dr. Sybille Anderl (Grenoble Institute of Planetology & Astrophysics)
Prof. Richard Bower (Durham – Physics / Institute for Computational Cosmology)
Prof. Peter Coveney (UCL – Chemistry / Centre for Computational Science)
Dr. Wendy Parker (Durham – Philosophy / CHESS)
Dr. Julian Reiss (Durham – Philosophy / CHESS)
Dr. Maria Serban (Copenhagen – Dept. of Media, Cognition & Communication)
Dr. David Stainforth (LSE – Grantham Institute on Climate Change)
Dr. Susanne Weis (Durham – Psychology / Centre for Vision & Visual Cognition)

All are welcome to attend, space permitting. If interested in attending, or for more information, please contact

Contact for more information about this event.