Computational methods have been transforming theory and practice across the biomedical sciences. While the expectations related to these developments are high, it seems that the life sciences represent a field where the introduction of computational methods leads to more pronounced challenges than in other disciplines. Because scientists themselves often lack the conceptual tools to overcome these integrative challenges, philosophers of science can be of great help by clarifying the underlying problems, by facilitating the communication between different disciplines, and by developing strategies of methodological integration. The aim of this research axis is to develop a conceptual framework that will help scientists overcome these integrative challenges in different biomedical contexts. More specifically, our aim is to understand the impact of computational methods in biology in terms of a change at the level of cognitive practices from informal to formal strategies. The required conceptual analysis will be informed by the cognitive sciences, by a detailed investigation of representative historical and contemporary case studies, and – most importantly – by concrete collaborations with scientists and practitioners.
The project is subdivided into three closely interrelated sub-projects:
- The development of a conceptual framework to characterize the nature of formal and
- informal modes of reasoning in the scientific context;
- A historical analysis of the informal character of biomedical research, in particular
- molecular biology, in the second half of the 20th Century;
- A set of interdisciplinary collaborations to address the challenges of integrating
- formal and informal elements in contemporary biological and biomedical research.
Collaborations will be with members of the ImmunoConcept lab, but also with scientists and philosophers from other institutions. Immunology represents a central field of application, raising the question of whether a truly integrative “systems immunology” is possible and desirable.