Explorative workshop on Big Data: Challenges and opportunities for epistemology and ethics?

Computer science and the rest of the natural and health sciences currently undergo changes in the direction of increased focus on “big data” and “machine learning”. These changes bring about opportunities and challenges for fields such as history, philosophy and social studies of science which should be capable of examining the associated epistemological and ethical aspects of the production of knowledge. How does big data actually enter into scientific practice and the organization of society? Do fundamentally new epistemological and ethical themes emerge, or can we adapt our established conceptions to handle this new mode of knowledge production? How does our notions of, e.g. privacy, modelling, explanation and classification fare when confronted with machine learning and big data?

These are some of the questions that we wish to discuss in an explorative workshop, aiming to get a better overview of the research done at selected Danish research institutions on such historical, philosophical and sociological topics related to big data and machine learning, and hopefully to facilitate future collaboration.

The workshop takes place at the Department of Science Education, Øster Voldgade 3, Copenhagen on Wednesday January 24, 2018 between 11am and 3.30pm. There are only a limited number of places available and lunch will be provided, so please contact Henrik Kragh Sørensen before January 17, if you are interested in participating.

Program of the workshop:


Welcome (Head of Department Hanne Andersen & Head of Section Henrik Kragh Sørensen)


Sara Green (Department of Science Education, UCPH): Philosophy of science in the digital age


Matthias Heymann (Center for Science Studies, Aarhus University): Climate science and Big Data




Thomas Bolander (Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, DTU): Explaining your failures


Joeri Witteveen (Utrecht University and Department of Science Education, UCPH): Distributing disagreement: ethical and epistemic challenges in big biodiversity informatics




Klaus Lindgaard Høyer (Department of Public Health, UCPH): Studying Big Data ethnographically


Aaro Tupasela  (Department of Public Health, UCPH): From Big data to Clean Data in AI development


Summary and possible identification of overlapping interests

The workshop is organized by Henrik Kragh Sørensen, Mikkel Willum Johansen and Sara Green as part of the Danish Network for History and Philosophy of Science.