Nancy J. NersessianDec 10, 2022
Interdisciplinarity in the Making
Models and Methods in Frontier Science
MIT Press 2022
Based on examining physics and the practices of physicists, philosophers of science often see models in science as representational intermediaries between scientific theories and the world. But what do scientists do when they don’t yet have the models or the theories?
In Interdisciplinarity in the Making: Models and Methods in Frontier Science (MIT Press, 2022), Nancy Nersessian reveals the bootstrapping creation of models in two biomedical engineering and two integrated system biology labs. Based on her cognitive ethnographic investigations, she argues that models are cognitive artifacts that are central components in distributed cognitive-cultural systems that include the scientists that create and use them. Nersessian, who is Regents’ Professor of Cognitive Science (emerita) at Georgia Institute of Technology, shows how the scientists build the epistemic infrastructure they need, along with the novel modeling practices that their cognitive artifacts enable, in order to do the science they want to do. Her teams’ investigations also led to developing award-winning curricula for science students.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.