Accepted Paper:

Remaking the world for reproducibility  

Author:

Nicole Nelson (University of Wisconsin Madison)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the data imaginaries of the "reproducibility crisis," and the connection between these imaginaries and laboratory practice. Using ethnographic data, it examines how scientists enact particular kinds of stability and commensurability far upstream in their research process.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the data imaginaries of the "reproducibility crisis," and the connection between these imaginaries and laboratory practice. The reproducibility crisis, a recent phenomenon where scientists have found many findings to be difficult to replicate on subsequent investigation, is grounded in particular assumptions about the stability and universality of biomedical data. Scientists have come to expect that findings might vary between sexes, for example, but are much more disturbed to find that they vary between technicians or laboratories. This variation across time and geographical space calls into question initiatives to extract, recombine, and extrapolate from these bodies of research.

Using ethnographic data, I will examine the ways in which scientists are presently attempting to enact particular kinds of stability and commensurability in their laboratory work. In particular, I will focus on how scientists enact these assumptions far upstream in their research process, not only through data cleaning or experimental design, but through the way that animals are housed before they even reach an experiment. This examination draws attention to the deep ways scientists remake the world with particular data imaginaries in mind. Drawing from STS work on ontology, I argue that we need to pay more attention to "ontological systems"; that is, how science shapes the topography of our reality through the management of numerous, interrelated objects from which data are extracted.

Panel A06
Meeting (in) data