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How Well Do Facts Travel?
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  • Cited by 5
  • Edited by Peter Howlett, London School of Economics and Political Science , Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics and Political Science
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Book description

This book discusses how facts travel, and when and why they sometimes travel well enough to acquire a life of their own. Whether or not facts travel in this manner depends not only on their character and ability to play useful roles elsewhere, but also on the labels, packaging, vehicles and company that take them across difficult terrains and over disciplinary boundaries. These diverse stories of travelling facts, ranging from architecture to nanotechnology and from romance fiction to climate science, change the way we see the nature of facts. Facts are far from the bland and rather boring but useful objects that scientists and humanists produce and fit together to make narratives, arguments and evidence. Rather, their extraordinary abilities to travel well shows when, how and why facts can be used to build further knowledge beyond and away from their sites of original production and intended use.


‘This fascinating interdisciplinary collection arising from an extraordinary international collaboration is a significant and innovative contribution to a crucial question in science and technology studies: what do we mean by a ‘fact’? New light is thrown on this old question by a fresh focus on the transmission and transformation of facts between different contexts, with very welcome attention to neglected subject areas, too. It is an intellectual feast of a volume, with plenty of food for thought for historians, philosophers, and natural and social scientists, especially those who are uncomfortable sitting in conventional disciplinary pigeonholes.’

Hasok Chang - University of Cambridge

‘This is a lively and diverse collection of essays about the lives of facts: ‘shared pieces of knowledge that hold the qualities of being autonomous, short, specific and reliable.’ The book is not so much about what facts are, but about what makes them travel - across space, time, and social worlds - and what gives them character. Focusing on the engaging question, what makes some facts travel well, that is, with integrity, yet with the ability to be put fruitfully to new uses, the book provides such a rich survey of curious, prosaic, profound, and false - as well as true - facts that readers will want to try their hand at grand theorizing, which the authors have politely and wisely refrained from doing. It will be an interesting experiment to see how well these facts about facts travel, and where.’

James Griesemer - University of California, Davis

‘How Well Do Facts Travel? accomplishes the uncommon feat of bringing fresh thinking to a most common phenomenon. Far more than merely contextualizing the use of ‘facts’ in myriad fields, this eye-opening and deeply thoughtful collection of essays sets facts in motion, models their dynamics, and maps their travels. Adventurous yet grounded, the group of scholars engages and challenges assumptions in disciplines ranging from history and archaeology to economics and policy to biology and design.’

Randall Mason - University of Pennsylvania

‘Stemming from a five-year group multidisciplinary research project, How Well Do Facts Travel? is a welcome and insightful contribution to the growing bodies of scholarship on comparative and historical epistemology, cultural and technological transfer, social networking, and the philosophies of the social and physical sciences. As with the work of Daston, Poovey, and Latour, this diverse and compelling collection of essays will be as usefully provocative to scholars in the arts and humanities as it will to those in the sciences.’

Mark A. Meadow - University of California, Santa Barbara and Leiden University, the Netherlands

‘How Well Do Facts Travel? provides an usual perspective on science and its communication by dealing with the ‘lives of facts’ and their constitution, development, and circulation, in disciplines as diverse as architecture and social psychology, climate science, and gerontology.’

Staffan Mueller-Wille - University of Exeter

‘How Well Do Facts Travel? edited by Peter Howlett and Mary S. Morgan is an impressive exploration - interdisciplinary in character - of the circulation of ‘facts’ in a number of areas spanning both the natural and social sciences and the humanities as well. Science studies abound in work on the vagaries of metaphors, models, and images. Curiously, so far, facts have hardly been included in this list. Peter Howlett and Mary Morgan’s assessment of less the production of facts but what makes them travel and how traveling transforms them opens a new horizon. The authors of the volume address the topic with subtleness and sovereignty, covering a broad range of carefully chosen case studies.’

Hans-Jörg Rheinberger - Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

‘Philosophers of science have long talked about fruitfulness as a criteria of scientific merit. This collection asks how ideas - or facts - actually get to be recognized and used; it is a major contribution that greatly deepens this important problem.’

Stephen P. Turner - University of South Florida

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