Crowdsourced Science: Sociotechnical Epistemology in the e-Research Paradigm

24 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2017

See all articles by David Watson

David Watson

Queen Mary University of London

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: September 29, 2016

Abstract

Recent years have seen a surge in online collaboration between experts and amateurs on scientific research. In this article, we analyse the epistemological implications of these crowdsourced projects, with a focus on Zooniverse, the world’s largest citizen science web portal. We use quantitative methods to evaluate the platform’s success in producing large volumes of observation statements and high impact scientific discoveries relative to more conventional means of data processing. Through empirical evidence, Bayesian reasoning, and conceptual analysis, we show how information and communication technologies enhance the reliability, scalability, and connectivity of crowdsourced e-research, giving online citizen science projects powerful epistemic advantages over more traditional modes of scientific investigation. These results highlight the essential role played by technologically mediated social interaction in contemporary knowledge production. We conclude by calling for an explicitly sociotechnical turn in the philosophy of science that combines insights from statistics and logic to analyse the latest developments in scientific research.

Keywords: Bayesian confirmation theory, Citizen science, Epistemic logic, Information and communication technology (ICT), Philosophy of information, Social epistemology, Zooniverse

Suggested Citation

Watson, David and Floridi, Luciano, Crowdsourced Science: Sociotechnical Epistemology in the e-Research Paradigm (September 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2914230 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2914230

David Watson (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

Mile End Rd
Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Luciano Floridi

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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