NSF scholarship to support the work of a British professor on the philosophy of science

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (June 8, 2022) — Julia Bursten, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Philosophycollaborates with scientists to help improve the scientific methods of their experiments.

As a philosopher of science, Bursten studies epistemology, or the logical and conceptual foundations of scientific knowledge. His highly interdisciplinary work merging philosophy and scientific research has been supported by both the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Bursten’s NEH-supported work focuses on the philosophy of nanoscience, the study of very small-scale structures and materials. Bursten was recently awarded an NSF EPSCoR Fellowship that will support his next project, which will produce the first analysis of agricultural science epistemology.

“As a philosopher of nanoscience, I examine the theories, models, reasoning strategies, and other conceptual tools that nanoscientists use to achieve their goals and how they reveal new insights into the character of scientific knowledge,” Bursten said. “The goal of the new NSF-supported project is to now be able to tell a similar story about agricultural science.”

The NSF Fellowship will support Bursten and a member of his team next year at Michigan State University, where they will collect data through in-depth interviews with agriculture and extension professors with the goal of better understanding the design of common experiences.

The project will also strengthen an existing research collaboration between Bursten and the Michigan State Department of Philosophy, which includes a large research group of philosophers of science. Bursten will work with this team to formulate the next steps in research.

“Like the UK, Michigan State is a land-grant university, and that’s an important part of that partnership because the land-grant system is so intertwined with the way agricultural science develops. is developed as a set of scientific practices,” Bursten said. “It will also be interesting to compare and contrast how scientific practices are structured in one place versus another.”

With the results of the agricultural science project, Bursten hopes to build on his work with nanoscience and establish a new philosophy of applied science.

“Agricultural science has some unusual parallels to nanoscience that you wouldn’t necessarily expect,” Bursten said. “These are two highly interdisciplinary applied sciences that have an intimate relationship with industry and technology. What we learn will help create a stronger picture of how scientific knowledge works in applied interdisciplinary science.

“The hope is that this research will not only benefit philosophers, but also benefit scientists as they think about how experiences are modeled.”

The research reported in this publication was supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 2132038. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.