My research is a union of social epistemology and philosophy of economics, with a focus on economics of 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 using bibliometrics to understand science as an epistemic system, with a focus on climate science. 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, social epistemologists have advanced various models of science as a collective epistemic enterprise. Philip Kitcher and Michael Strevens, for example, have modelled scientists as utility-maximizers who in their pursuit of peer recognition spontaneously organize to efficiently divide their epistemic labor. Others employ computer simulation to evaluate various institutional features of science. All of these models have the potential to evaluate and suggest improvements to the institutional structure of science. Unfortunately, little effort has been made to subject these models of science to empirical test, and for that reason, as I argue in “Evaluating Formal Models of Science“, there is little reason to trust their results.
My current research uses bibliometrics, particularly the analysis of citation networks, to evaluate the implications of socio-epistemic theories of science. Climate science is a particularly fruitful domain for this research. 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. 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 Changein 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.
- “Evaluating Formal Models of Science” Journal for General Philosophy of Science (2019). 10.1007/s10838-018-9440-1. [Preprint: Thicke – Evaluating Formal Models of Science]
- “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.
- April 2018: “Social Epistemology and Bibliometrics,” Centre Interuniversitaire de Recherche sur la Science et la Technologie, UQAM (http://www.cirst.uqam.ca) (Invited Talk)
- 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