Author Information: Erika Szymanski, University of Otago,

Szymanski, Erika. “Review—Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise.Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 33-36.

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Image credit: Routledge Press

Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise
Nico Stehr and Reiner Grundmann
146 pp.

Erika Szymanski, University of Otago

If you are looking for a provocative argument about what being an expert means in contemporary information-driven cultures, I would offer that your time is better spent somewhere other than Stehr and Grundmann’s Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise (Routledge 2011).

The book reads more as a conservative intellectual history situating the “expert” in knowledge societies than a new position statement. That history is useful: they define and contextualize the expert as contemporary case studies often fail to do; they raise many questions about the role of experts as a general group that usually remain invisible in those studies. Unanswered as often as not, these questions might serve as a productive repository for future debate. Be forewarned, however, that you may find little that feels genuinely new as a reward for wading through Stehr and Grundmann’s sometimes-dense prose.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Leah Carr, University of Queensland,

Carr, Leah. “Review: Essays in Collective Epistemology.Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 29-32.

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Image credit: Oxford University Press

Essays in Collective Epistemology
Edited by Jennifer Lackey
Oxford University Press
272 pp.

Leah Carr, University of Queensland

To address Essays in Collective Epistemology, edited by Jennifer Lackey, I will provide an overview of what collective epistemology involves (based almost entirely on what I have learned from the book) and include a brief chapter-by-chapter digest of the essays themselves. Essays in Collective Epistemology covers a number of issues in the field and might serve as a useful introduction to the field for prospective graduate students or others looking in from outside the field.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Julianne Nyhan, University College London,

Nyhan, Julianne. “‘Scholarly Labour and Digital Collaboration in Literary Studies': An Invited Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 23-28.

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Image credit: Julie Jordan Scott , via flickr

Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner (2015) examines a COST-funded collaborative project entitled Women Writers in History, which aimed to, among other things, deliver an online prototype ‘through the collaborative use and further development of an existing digital database’ (214). His main aim is to investigate how “specific ways of organizing scholarly labour make possible certain forms of knowledge” (207). In doing so, he uncovers a pronounced disparity between the benefits that the digital was expected to confer and the difficulties that were encountered in the course of such work. He notes: ‘Digital technology can facilitate collaboration and data sharing among humanities scholars, and therefore is sometimes seen as a catalyst for attempts to revise problematic canonical traditions in literary history’ (207). However, once the project was underway the work connected with the digital database was considered by scholars to essentially be ‘non-scholarly’ or, using a rather unfortunate phrase, akin to ‘slave labour’ (219). Continue Reading…

Author Information: Julian Reiss, Durham University,; Sarah Wieten, Durham University

Reiss, Julian and Sarah Wieten. “On Justin Biddle’s ‘Lessons from the Vioxx Debacle’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 20-22.

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vioxx phone

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Justin Biddle’s (2007) article “Lessons from the Vioxx Debacle: What the Privatization of Science can teach us about Social Epistemology” is one of the highest regarded in this journal, with a high rate of citation. The article raised the alarm about the possible negative consequences about the increasing privatization of scientific research, and issued a call for epistemologists to attend seriously to the specific particularities of the fields they wished to characterize. This call was specifically leveled at philosophers of science such as Kitcher and Longino who, according to Biddle, were too interested in their claims being generalizable to all scientific disciplines to say anything relevant to any particular discipline. Biddle writes of their claims, Continue Reading…

Author Information: Daniel P. Miller, Virginia Tech,

Miller, Daniel P. “SIREN 2015 Lecture Review: ‘Leading and Communicating when Technology Fails’.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 20-24.

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Image credit: IAEA Imagebank, via flickr

Sociologists and engineers call it “the human factor.”  It’s what we must depend on when all the glittering technology seems, suddenly, useless. — Gene Kranz, former NASA Flight Director (2000, 12).

The Seminar on Interdisciplinary Research and Education in Nuclear Emergency Response (SIREN) held its third talk on 17 March 2015 with Dr. Charles “Chuck” Casto presenting, “Global Nuclear Leadership in the Extreme:  Crisis Leadership Post-Fukushima.” Hosted by Dr. Sonja Schmid of Virginia Tech in Arlington, Virginia, SIREN is part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant that focuses on allowing nuclear power experts to share their knowledge on nuclear emergencies.

Dr. Casto has decades of nuclear system knowledge and experience with complex and hazardous sociotechnical systems.  His experience and subject matter expertise covers a broad spectrum from that of an explosive ordnance disposal expert for the United States Air Force, a nuclear reactor operator and systems instructor, to a senior executive at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Continue Reading…

Author Information: András Szigeti, Linköping University,

Szigeti, András “Seumas Miller: Joint Epistemic Action and Collective Moral Responsibility—A Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 14-19.

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Image credit: Ken Douglas, via flickr

In a series of books and articles, Miller has developed a refreshingly original and complex account of joint action and collective responsibility. This approach constitutes an interesting alternative to the current orthodoxy that seeks to explain shared agency in terms of joint intentions. Miller also offers a novel, moderately individualist conception of group responsibility steering clear of both robust collectivism, according to which group-responsibility does not reduce to the responsibility of individual group members, as well as more radical forms of individualism, according to which collective responsibility is always just the sum of the responsibility of individual group members.

His present paper extends this account to the area of collective epistemic action. [1] I believe the approach is promising overall and its application to epistemology fruitful. In what follows, I will explore how the general account and its application could be further strengthened by making some of the central conceptual distinctions of the paper clearer. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Adam Riggio, McMaster University,; Steve Fuller, University of Warwick,


Editor’s Note:

Adam Riggio

riggio Although I loved our explicitly political discussion of the last couple of dialogues, I want to dive into the final installment of our exchange with some headier philosophy. I particularly want to discuss the power of counter-factual reasoning. Even though you consider this a foundational method for a progressive philosophy of science, I think it eclipses even your own vision. Counter-factual knowledge, I’d go so far as to say, makes a lot of your own vision obsolete.

The conclusion of Knowledge: The Philosophical Quest in History returns to the vision on which your early chapters focused, the unity of science in humanity’s conception of ourselves in the image of God. Your advocacy of this idea remains a point on which you and I will, I think, always disagree. But once I reached the end of your book, I had many more reasons for my disagreement. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Steve Fuller, Warwick University,

Fuller, Steve. “My One Habit: Never Speak from a Prepared Written Text.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 10-13.

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Editor’s Note:

    Last year Steve Fuller contributed to a Korean volume called ‘The Guru Challenge’, which presented insights into living from ninety distinguished individuals in various fields. This year a second volume is scheduled to come out, in which contributors are asked to identify a successful habit and explain how it arose from their life experience. What follows is Fuller’s response. It will be appearing in Korean translation in Douglas Huh, ed., The Habit: Borrowing Life Strategies from the World’s Most Creative Leaders (Seoul: Woongjin Knowledge House, 2015). Thanks to the publisher and editor for permission to publish the piece in English.


Image credit: Ramón, via flickr

There is a time-honoured tradition—one that goes back to the Ancient Greek Sophists—that says that when it comes to important matters, one should always write down one’s thoughts before speaking them. Many reasons are given for this advice. Writing can nail down specific thoughts that might be difficult to recall in speech. Writing also allows complex thoughts to be laid out in a logical fashion, something that is often hard to do if one is simply speaking ‘off the cuff’.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Finn Collin, University of Copenhagen,; David Budtz Pedersen, University of Copenhagen,

Collin, Finn and David Budtz Pedersen. “The Science of Science Policy: A Response to Jesper Eckhardt Larsen.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 5 (2015): 1-9.

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Rally to Restore Sanity: San Francisco

Image credit: Steve Rhodes , via flickr

We are grateful to Jesper Eckhardt Larsen (2014) for his comments on our article (2013). Among other things, these comments give us a chance to clarify our views, and elaborate upon certain elements of our argument that were left somewhat sketchy in the original paper. Our response follows in three parts.  Continue Reading…

Author Information: Adam Riggio, McMaster University,; Steve Fuller, University of Warwick,


Editor’s Note:

Adam Riggio

One element I want to focus on in my questions for you about the last full chapter of Knowledge is the political aspects of public knowledge and scientific institutions and inquiries. Speaking as a Canadian, one of the disheartening developments of my country’s politics was seeing our Conservative government’s assaults on state scientific institutions.  Continue Reading…