The Dynamics of Scientific Discovery

- a semiotic approach to information, abduction, and styles of scientific thinking and doing

PhD defense

The Department of Science Education announces the public defense of the PhD-thesis The Dynamics of Scientific Discovery - a semiotic approach to information, abduction, and styles of scientific thinking and doing by Mariana Vitti Rodrigues.

The defense takes place at AUD B at the Geocenter at Øster Voldgade 10.

The defense is followed by a reception hosted by the Department of Science Education. The reception takes place at the old Observatory, Øster Voldgade 3 (in the Botanical Garden).

Doctoral candidate:

Mariana Vitti Rodrigues

Assessment Committee:

Associate Professor Frederik V. Christiansen (University of Copenhagen), chairman

Associate Professor Chiara Ambrosio (University College London)

Associate Professor Donald F. Favareau (National University of Singapore)


Associate Professor Claus Emmeche (University of Copenhagen)


Associate Professor Mikkel Willum Johansen (University of Copenhagen)

Abstract of thesis:

Science is present in most aspects of our daily lives; but how can a scientist create new ideas to explain strange phenomena? Remember the light bulb that appears above one’s head when having a new idea? Or the expression “a-ha” that comes together with a new understanding? This “aha experience” is the main theme of the present thesis which aims to analyze the role that information and reasoning play in the conception of new ideas. To achieve this aim, I develop a conceptual framework composed of three main concepts: information, abduction and styles of reasoning. Information is characterized as a process that allows the growth of knowledge. Abduction is a kind of reasoning that affords scientists to formulate explanatory hypotheses. Styles of reasoning, in turn, are methods of thinking about how to solve scientific problems, developed through a long history. After investigating the relationship among information, abduction and styles of reasoning, I illustrate my conceptual framework with concrete examples. For instance, I analyze the discovery of quasi-periodic crystals that surprised most scientists. I also look at research on how smart crows really are (corvid cognition). The conceptual framework, together with the examples of scientific discovery, illustrates the dynamicity of scientific discovery. This contributes to a better understanding of a crucial part of science, its creative part. I show how aspects of scientific discovery are sometimes neglected, and discuss the importance of community for the development of scientific ideas, the long-term process of building reasonable hypotheses, the background theories underlying the process of thinking, and the fact that scientific hypotheses can be wrong. In sum, this thesis contributes to a better understanding of what is involved in scientific discovery.

The PhD thesis is available to the public at the Department of Science Education, contact: Nadja Nordmaj, email: