My research is a union of social epistemology and philosophy of economics, with a focus on science.
My dissertation analyzes attempts by philosophers such as Michael Polanyi and Philip Kitcher and sociologists such as Bruno Latour and Barry Barnes to apply economic analogies and methods to questions about the social organization of science and the trustworthiness of scientific conclusions. I argue that by developing a more sophisticated understanding of markets, we can see crucial differences between economics in the traditional sphere and the symbolic economics of science that blocks such inferences. Nevertheless, these analogies can help us to understand the institutional structure of science, to diagnose possible challenges in the organization of scientific research (for example in climate science), and to understand how science is changing in the face of new trends such as the “commodification” of scientific research and potential economic devices such as prediction markets.
My current research focuses on two areas: articulating an account of markets as collective epistemic agents and understanding climate science as an epistemic system. Regarding the first, we regularly encounter statements such as, “The market believes Apple’s best years are behind it.” What are we to make of these belief statements, and if we take them seriously as belief statements, when do they constitute knowledge? What does it take for the market to know? My research is concerned to answer these questions. It investigates economic theories such as the Efficient Market Hypothesis and institutions such as prediction markets, and compares these to accounts of belief and knowledge in social and individual epistemology.
Regarding the second area, historian Paul Edwards has described climate science as A Vast Machine. Climate models incorporate knowledge from a wide range of disciplines including atmospheric physics, chemistry, ecology, and economics. Additionally, the rely on measurements collected by a wide range of instruments by a wide range of people with disparate priorities. This makes climate science an ideal arena for investigating science as a social and economic system, as there is no CEO or general of climate science directing each scientist to do the research necessary to produce climate models. Rather, scientists must somehow organize themselves with no central direction. Building from some initial work in my dissertation, this research attempts to develop an account of epistemic justification that is not based on the content of climate models, but is instead based on the social and institutional structure of the scientists who develop those models, both directly and indirectly. I am also interested in the process employed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in incorporating the views of a wide range of scientists on a wide range of issues, and the way that they navigate complex value-laden debates in reaching their conclusions.
- “Prediction Markets for Science: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?” Social Epistemology (2017). [Preprint: Thicke – Prediction Markets for Science]
- “Market Epistemology,” Synthese (2017). [Preprint: Thicke – Market Epistemology]
- “Review: Cold War Social Science,” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 8, No. 1 (2016) 115-117.
- “Economic Aspects of Science: Editor’s Introduction,” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2013) 1-5.
- “Review: David Tyfield, The Economics of Science: A Critical Realist Overview, Volumes 1 and 2,” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2013) 94-96.
- “Review: Steve Fuller’s Science,” Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2011) 91-94.
- September 2017: “The Epistemic Structure of Climate Science,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (accepted)
- July 2017: “Using Citation Mapping to Assess Economic Models of Science,” Formal Models of Scientific Inquiry
- June 2017: “What is the Efficient Market Hypothesis?” History of Economics Society
- May 2017: “The Epistemic Structure of Climate Science,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science
- 2016: “Reconsidering the Scientific Commodity,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science
- 2011: “Social Science Indicators in Action: U.S. Senator Walter Mondale’s Initiative to Create a Council of Social Advisers,” with Mark Solovey, Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.
- 2010: “To Measure, Monitor, and Manage the Nation’s Social Progress: U.S. Senator Walter Mondale’s Initiative to Create a Council of Social Advisers, 1967-1974,” with Mark Solovey, History of Science Society annual meeting.
- 2010: “What’s Wrong with Genome Canada? Path Dependence in Canadian Science Policy,” Public Science in Canada / Strengthening Science and Policy to Protect Canadians Symposium
- 2010: “Efficient Science: Applying the Efficient Market Hypothesis to Scientific Communities,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science
- 2009: “Bayesian Statistics in Gravitational Wave Astronomy,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science