Integrating the Epistemology and Ethics of Big Data Science

Stefano Canali

My research project concerns the use of big data in the scientific domain, with particular reference to the life sciences. Many argue that big data brings about an epistemological revolution: the idea is that scientists now have so much data that this is capable of speaking for itself and drive research in an unbiased and objective way, without the need for theoretical considerations. In my project, I study whether and how big data changes scientific epistemology, with the aim of developing a comprehensive epistemological account of big data science.
Work on developing such an account needs to be based on scientific practice. So, I examine scientists’ activities with big data in current life sciences projects, particularly focusing on the ways scientists curate big datasets. This study of scientific practice leads to two series of questions, regarding the nature of research ethics and the role of cognitive and material elements in big data science. In this way, the project aims at highlighting the connections between theoretical and practical considerations of this new kind of scientific research.