Coordinating dissent as an alternative to consensus classification: insights from systematics for bio-ontologies

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (1):1-25 (2020)
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The collection and classification of data into meaningful categories is a key step in the process of knowledge making. In the life sciences, the design of data discovery and integration tools has relied on the premise that a formal classificatory system for expressing a body of data should be grounded in consensus definitions for classifications. On this approach, exemplified by the realist program of the Open Biomedical Ontologies Foundry, progress is maximized by grounding the representation and aggregation of data on settled knowledge. We argue that historical practices in systematic biology provide an important and overlooked alternative approach to classifying and disseminating data, based on a principle of coordinative rather than definitional consensus. Systematists have developed a robust system for referring to taxonomic entities that can deliver high quality data discovery and integration without invoking consensus about reality or “settled” science.



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Author Profiles

Beckett Sterner
Arizona State University
Joeri Witteveen
University of Copenhagen
Nico Franz
University of Puerto Rico

Citations of this work

Scientific Pluralism.Ludwig David & Ruphy Stéphanie - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Are bio-ontologies metaphysical theories?Oliver M. Lean - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):11587-11608.

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