The role of scientific judgment in generating knowledge: A qualitative study about interpersonal, collective and collaborative belief formation in scientific practice

A brief overview of the project

There is increasing academic and societal interest regarding the reproducibility and potential biases involved in scientific results. Scientists are faced with the tasks of producing reliable results and supporting societal development with innovations, while ensuring their own academic survival. Thus, when it comes to generating reliable results and communicating them adequately to peers, researchers perceive their routine challenges as a balance between making a contribution, ensuring accountability, and gaining recognition. Ethical approval was given by the central ethics committee of the LUH, IRB/Ethics Votum: EV LUH 08/2023.

The project JUKNOW combines philosophical reflection and theory building with ethnographic and qualitative research to investigate the role and development of judgments throughout the research process, up to and including the communication of results. Research participants will be recruited from fields of experimental cognitive science, especially JDM (Judgment & Decision Making). The sociological aspects of scientific practice have been investigated for more than 50 years, such that the philosophical and social epistemological implications of scientists’ epistemic practices can benefit from an empirically informed update. Therefore, the project uses ethnographic methods [e.g., qualitative data analysis, participant observation] to investigate questions of epistemic trust and dependence, collaborative belief formation, communication of reliable knowledge to peers, judgment aggregation and peer disagreement. I will analyze scientists’ descriptions of how they go about doing experiments, then deliberating and reflecting on their individual and collaborative decisions and judgments concerning validation procedures. Specifically, I will investigate how scientists’ concepts in experimental practice are connected to scientists’ (meta-)reflections, when describing processes within the working group and how these concepts are in turn used in deliberation and writing processes addressed to peers outside the working group.

By collecting scientists’ reflections on the relationship between epistemic and non-epistemic criteria for decision-making, I draw out embedded norms from the descriptive and functional level of scientific practice, and thereby wish to gain a better understanding of the processes that connect individual, interpersonal, collaborative, and collective belief formation to reconstructed justifications. The findings will enrich discussions of the relationship between individual and collective judgment aggregation. By using qualitative research, in the form of “cognitive ethnography”, the project elucidates philosophical questions in an empirically informed way and thus contributes to an empirical understanding of knowledge generation. The results are expected to be useful for science research in different disciplines as well as for training future researchers.


JDM researchers and cognitive scientists who would like to participate, please contact Nora Hangel

Project Period: 15.09.2022 - 14.09.2025
Project Lead: Dr. Nora Hangel
Study Information: here