Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Sept. 5, 2022, 7:03 a.m. Humanist 36.153 - pubs: interdisciplinarity in bioengineering

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 153.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2022-09-04 16:52:38+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: interdisciplinarity in bioengineering

I've just received notice of the following book that will be of interest
to those here with an interest in interdisciplinary work:

Nancy J. Nersessian, Interdisciplinarity in the Making: Models and
Methods in Frontier Science (MIT Press, 2022)

A cognitive ethnography of how bioengineering scientists create
innovative modeling methods.

In this first full-scale, long-term cognitive ethnography by a
philosopher of science, Nancy J. Nersessian offers an account of how
scientists at the interdisciplinary frontiers of bioengineering create
novel problem-solving methods. Bioengineering scientists model complex
dynamical biological systems using concepts, methods, materials, and
other resources drawn primarily from engineering. They aim to understand
these systems sufficiently to control or intervene in them. What
Nersessian examines here is how cutting-edge bioengineering scientists
integrate the cognitive, social, material, and cultural dimensions of
practice. Her findings and conclusions have broad implications for
researchers in philosophy, science studies, cognitive science, and
interdisciplinary studies, as well as scientists, educators, policy
makers, and funding agencies.

In studying the epistemic practices of scientists, Nersessian pushes the
boundaries of the philosophy of science and cognitive science into areas
not ventured before. She recounts a decades-long, wide-ranging, and
richly detailed investigation of the innovative interdisciplinary
modeling practices of bioengineering researchers in four university
laboratories. She argues and demonstrates that the methods of cognitive
ethnography and qualitative data analysis, placed in the framework of
distributed cognition, provide the tools for a philosophical analysis of
how scientific discoveries arise from complex systems in which the
cognitive, social, material, and cultural dimensions of problem-solving
are integrated into the epistemic practices of scientists. Specifically,
she looks at how interdisciplinary environments shape problem-solving.
Although Nersessian's case material is drawn from the bioengineering
sciences, her analytic framework and methodological approach are
directly applicable to scientific research in a broader, more general
sense, as well.

Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

Unsubscribe at:
List posts to:
List info and archives at at:
Listmember interface at:
Subscribe at: