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Producing a Robust Body of Data With a Single Technique (Preprint)

Producing a Robust Body of Data With a Single Technique (Preprint)

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Published by Greg Gandenberger
Published in Philosophy of Science 77.3 (2010): 381-399.
Published in Philosophy of Science 77.3 (2010): 381-399.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Greg Gandenberger on May 31, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/31/2013

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Producing a Robust Body of Data with a Single Technique
Greg Gandenberger 
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1
Contact the author by email at gsganden@gmail.com or by mail at University of Pittsburgh, Department of  HPS, Cathedral of Learning 1017, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
 
Producing a Robust Body of Data with a Single TechniqueGandenberger 2Many techniques used in science produce raw data that requires interpretation. In manycases, it is impossible to discover or test by direct observation a method of interpreting rawdata. It is natural to assume that in such cases the justification for a method of interpretationmust come from a theory about the process that produces the raw data. Contrary to this view,scientists have many strategies for validating a method of raw-data interpretation. Thosestrategies can be used to produce multiple arguments in support of a single technique thatmay depend on largely independent sets of presuppositions. Thus, it is possible to produce arobust body of data with a single technique. I illustrate and support these claims with a casestudy of the introduction of the cathode-ray oscillograph into electrophysiology.
 
Producing a Robust Body of Data with a Single TechniqueGandenberger 3
1. Introduction
Scientists use specialized techniques to acquire information that is not available to theunaided senses. Many of those techniques produce raw data that requires substantialinterpretation. For instance, the curve a cathode-ray oscillograph produces has to be assigneda coordinate system before it can serve as a record of voltage as a function of time. Themethod of assigning a coordinate system, like many other methods of rata-data interpretation,has been standardized and automated over time. Before it could be standardized andautomated, however, it had to be developed and validated.How do scientists develop and validate a method of interpreting raw data from a newtechnique? When a technique purports to provide information that is not available to theunaided senses, it is impossible to use direct observation to discover or check a method of interpreting raw data from that technique. In such circumstances, it is natural to think thatthe justification for a particular method of interpretation must come from a theory about the process that produces the raw data. For instance, one might think that the justification for assigning the curve an oscillograph produces to a particular coordinate system must comefrom a theory about the process that leads from the voltage in the nerve to the recording of the curve on the oscillograph screen.Call this idea
 — 
that when a technique provides information that is not available to theunaided senses, the justification for a particular method of raw-data interpretation must comefrom a theory of the process that produces the raw data
 — 
the Process-Theory View. Sylvia

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