Date: 27 January 2016

Time: 15:30-17:15

Location: VU, W&N Building, Room G 076

Stevin Seminar: Research outside the laboratory, in the field

In 2015 two scholars from the Low Countries published books that are concerned with scientific research carried out in the field: Marcel Boumans (Utrecht University) and Raf de Bont (Maastricht University). In this Stevin Seminar they will present their work, and exchange their views on scientific research outside the laboratory.

15:45 – 16:10 Raf de Bont – Stations in the Field: A History of Place-Based Animal Research, 1870-1930
16:10 – 16:35 Marcel Boumans – Science outside the Laboratory: Measurement in Field Science and Economics
16:35 – 16:50 Debate between the authors
17:50 – 17:15 General discussion with the audience

About the books

Raf de Bont’s Stations in the Field (University of Chicago Press, 2015) focuses on the early history of biological field stations and the role these played in the rise of zoological place-based research. Beginning in the 1870s, a growing number of biological field stations were founded—first in Europe and later elsewhere around the world—and thousands of zoologists received their training and performed their research at these sites. Through case studies, De Bont examines the material and social context in which field stations arose, the actual research that was produced in these places, the scientific claims that were developed there, and the rhetorical strategies that were deployed to convince others that these claims made sense. From the life of parasitic invertebrates in northern France and freshwater plankton in Schleswig-Holstein, to migratory birds in East Prussia and pest insects in Belgium, De Bont’s book is fascinating tour through the history of studying nature in nature.

Marcel BoumansScience Outside the Laboratory (Oxford University Press, 2015) discusses measurement in terms of social science rather than laboratory science, and defends the need for expert judgment in the sciences. The conduct of most of social science occurs outside the laboratory. Such studies in field science explore phenomena that cannot for practical, technical, or ethical reasons be explored under controlled conditions. These phenomena cannot be fully isolated from their environment or investigated by manipulation or intervention. Yet a methodology that accounts for expert judgment does provide analysts with a sound basis for discerning what occurs under field conditions, and why.

Raf De Bont is assistant professor at Maastricht University.

Marcel Boumans is associate professor at Utrecht University.