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What Distinguishes Data from Models?

Leonelli, Sabina (2018) What Distinguishes Data from Models? [Preprint]


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I propose a framework that explicates and distinguishes the epistemic roles of data and models within empirical inquiry through consideration of their use in scientific practice. After arguing that Suppes’ characterization of data models falls short in this respect, I discuss a case of data processing within exploratory research in plant phenotyping and use it to highlight the difference between practices aimed to make data usable as evidence and practices aimed to use data to represent a specific phenomenon. I then argue that whether a set of objects functions as data or models does not depend on intrinsic differences in their physical properties, level of abstraction or the degree of human intervention involved in generating them, but rather on their distinctive roles towards identifying and characterizing the targets of investigation. The paper thus proposes a characterization of data models that builds on Suppes’ attention to data practices, without however needing to posit a fixed hierarchy of data and models or a highly exclusionary definition of data models as statistical constructs.

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Item Type: Preprint
Additional Information: Forthcoming in European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Keywords: data model, experimentation, empiricism, research practice, plant science, data processing, statistics, phenomics, big data, inference
Subjects: General Issues > Data
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Depositing User: Sabina Leonelli
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2018 01:05
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2018 01:05
Item ID: 15485
Subjects: General Issues > Data
Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Date: 20 December 2018

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