FNRS MIS Project: Digital History and Philosophy of Biology

16 April 2019 by Charles cpencepermalink

Continuing the series of articles about the lab’s grant funding, I now have the distinct honor of describing our new project under the auspices of the FNRS (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS), Wallonia’s scientific funding organization. The grant is a “Mandat d’Impulsion Scientifique,” an early-career fellowship designed to kickstart a new research program for an incoming researcher. And the most important thing that the grant is funding is two two-year (or, possibly, three-year) postdoctoral fellowships!

As those of you who have been following our work now, I’ve been engaged for a while now in the production of digital humanities tools that help us to analyze large corpora of journal articles, along with building the corpora themselves. There’s just been one thing missing: time and space to actually do lots of good work with those tools! I’ve written an article or two myself, and have some more things in the pipeline. A few of my papers have also called upon digital analyses in an indirect way to demonstrate broader points. But that’s just my own approach to these questions – we also need others! People with new and interesting ideas, working in areas different from my own, who can push these DH tools and techniques in directions that I haven’t yet considered.

That’s exactly what this grant will fund. Two post-doctoral fellows – Oliver Lean and Luca Rivelli, about whom more later in future posts! – will join the group for a few years, with the express intent to think about our DH work in new and exciting ways. Oliver is working on a variety of concepts in and around molecular biology, as well as having an interest in theorizing about our use of digital humanities and big data across the sciences. Luca has been doing some really interesting work on network structure and modularity, and we’re hoping to apply those insights to ideas about scientific innovation, publishing practices, and the birth of scientific fields.1

I’m also hoping to start building a more extensive collaborative network around these DH projects under the auspices of this grant. Of course, we’re already connected from the original construction of the corpus with Grant Ramsey’s group at KU Leuven, and we’re working now to build links with Mark Alfano at TU Delft, Michael Ruse at Florida State University, Wilko Hardenberg at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and others! (Maybe even you? Get in touch!)

Hopefully there will be much more to come on both the blog and our publications page about the fruits of our new work!

  1. If they’re game, I’ll invite each of them to write their own post here soon about the work they have planned!