According to common understanding, knowledge emerges when information meets theory. But given AI's new capabilities for machine integration of mass data, do we even need theories anymore? What are the implications for knowledge transfer? What is the contribution of theories in higher education? The conference will explore current research in the context of the sociology and philosophy of science. The theory conference will cover three thematic strands: (i) Publication and reception practices as elements of theorizing / the role of the canon; (ii) Theory in higher education teaching / the philosophy of science; (iii) Comparison of theories / the replication crisis / AI.
The symposium is a joint event of institutions of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Robert K. Merton Center for Science Studies RMZ; Professorship for Higher Education Research) and the Berlin Society for the Study of Science.
Keynote: Andrew Abbott (Chicago)
"The Role of Theory in the Social Sciences"
Session 1: Media of Theory, Thursday, 5 October, 14:30 CET
Chair: Sina Farzin, Julian Hamann
Proceeding from current sociological debates about theorizing and “doing theory” (Krause, 2016; Mears, 2017), which attend to the situated practices of theory work, the session zooms in on different media in and through which theory and theorizing is accomplished (Hamann & Kosmützky, 2021). These media range from books as a rather traditional medium of scientific communication and various technologies that structure academic work on a daily basis (email, word processing, reference management systems, chats) to new media concerned with theory (for example, podcasts).
With Niermann (Zurich); Brankovic, Ringel, Werron (Bielefeld); Armbruster (Duisburg/Essen), Seyfert (Kiel); Klenk (Mannheim); von Heyl (Berlin) and further guests. There will first be short presentations and then a panel discussion.
Session 2: (Why) Teaching Theory? 6 October, 9:00 CET
Chair: Harald A. Mieg
Can theory be understood as a form of scientific research (Wissenschaftsrat, 2012; Mieg, 2019)? Is theory the foundation and means of academic education (e.g., in Sosa, 2017), e.g., in inquiry-based learning (Brew, 2022)?
This session is about reflecting philosophically on theory and teaching theory. Three input lectures are planned for this purpose: Erik J. Olsson (Lund) on epistemology (e.g., Olsson, 2017), Rainer E. Zimmermann (Berlin) on metaphysics (e.g., Zimmermann, 2014), and an input on philosophy of science (NN). The presentations will refer to 1-2 specific questions:
1) Theory in Higher Education: What role does theory play in academic teaching? Is theory even what we learn exclusively at university?
2) The Philosophy of Science and theory: Is theory building (and concept formation) a form of research?
Session 3: Theory by Any Other Name, 6 October, 12:15 CET
Chair: Sheena F. Bartscherer & Stephan Gauch
In the discussions about the replication and quality crisis (after Ioannidis, 2005), it becomes clear that an empiricist understanding of the field comes into play, which sees research primarily as data collection. Replication, systematic reviewing, etc. are understood as research practices that not only "clean" data, but allow patterns to emerge. In this session, we would like to discuss which modified, partly empiricist-tinged understandings of theory exist, whether and which alternatives they offer to a classical concept of theory, and in which current research areas they are primarily applied (Peterson & Panofsky, 2023; Walkup, 2021). A focus will be on the role of AI.
Link zur Anmeldung: