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Human Computers as Instruments

25 May 2023

The Bristol Department of Philosophy is delighted to announce that Dr. Ana-Maria Cretu (Principal Investigator) and Professor James Ladyman (Co-Investigator) have been awarded an AHRC Research Grant, £202,956, for a project entitled ‘Human Computers as Instruments’.

To understand science we need to understand how scientific knowledge is produced. This requires investigating the roles of human beings who reduce, analyse, and interpret the data as well as how data is produced by measurements in experiments. This project is a novel and interdisciplinary inquiry into the epistemic roles of the people who reduced and analysed data in large-scale scientific enterprises before the advent of digital computers. In particular, the project investigates the epistemic roles of i) the scanners within the Bristol Nuclear Research Group 1935-1955; and ii) the human computers at the Harvard Observatory 1880-1920. The Human Computers as Instruments project will furnish analytical and ethical tools for a) the philosophical and normative assessment of epistemic work and epistemic injustice within large scale collaborations; b) the re-appraisal of norms of scientific objectivity and scientific discovery; c) the regulation and communication of credit, authorship, and reward systems in science and d) the engagement of the public in more complex narratives of instrumentation and experimentation, scientific discovery, and reward systems in science.

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