Computer models and simulations have become, since the 1960s, an essential instrument for scientific inquiry and political decision making in several fields, from climate to life and social sciences. Philosophical reflection has mainly focused on the ontological status of the computational modeling, on its epistemological validity and on the research practices it entails. But in computational sciences, the work on models and simulations are only two steps of a longer and richer process where operations on data are as important as, and even more time and energy-consuming than modeling itself. Drawing on two study cases – computational embryology and computational epidemiology –, this article contributes to fill the gap by focusing on the operations of producing and re-using data in computational sciences. The different phases of the scientific and artisanal work of modelers include data collection, aggregation, homogenization, assemblage, analysis and visualization. The article contributes to deconstruct the ideas that data are self-evident informational aggregates and that data-driven approaches are exempted from theoretical work. More importantly, the paper stresses the fact that data are constructed and theory-laden not only in their fabrication, but also in their reusing.
Since their inception in the 1980s, complexity sciences have been described as a revolutionary new domain of research. By describing some of the practices and assumptions of its representatives, the present article shows that this field is an association of subdisciplines laying on existing disciplinary footholds. The general question guiding us here is: On what basis do complexity scientists consider their inquiry methods and results as valuable? To answer it, I describe five “epistemic argumentative regimes,” namely the ways in which complexity scientists argue the credibility of their research, and five “ontological views,” that is the ways in which they interpret the material and formal causes of their study objects and models. Finally, the article proposes the term of “regime of evidence” to designate the specific combination of one ontological view with one or more epistemic argumentative regimes.