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Data-Centric BiologyA Philosophical Study$
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Sabina Leonelli

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226416335

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226416502.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 24 May 2020

What Counts as Data?

What Counts as Data?

(p.69) 3 What Counts as Data?
Data-Centric Biology

Sabina Leonelli

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 3 articulates a novel relational view of the epistemology of data. I portray data as analytic category that emerges from my empirical discussion and relates it to existing philosophical treatments. Data are tools that scientists use to understand the world and communicate with each other: sources of knowledge, rather than knowledge in themselves. I argue that this is what biologists typically mean when talking about ‘raw data’, or ‘data in need of an interpretation’: an object becomes a datum when it is viewed as potential or actual evidence for one or more prospective knowledge claims, and given the unpredictable variety of claims which data might be used to corroborate, their evidential value can vary. Data do not have truth-value in and of themselves, nor can they be seen as straightforward representations of given phenomena. Rather, data are relational and fungible objects, which are defined by their portability and their prospective usefulness as evidence.

Keywords:   data epistemology, data ontology, evidence, philosophy of science, raw data

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