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Center for Uncertainty Studies Blog

Center for Uncertainty Studies Blog

Carsten Reinhardt wins Robert K. Merton Book Award

Veröffentlicht am 27. September 2023


CeUS Member and Professor for Historical Studies of Science at Bielefeld University, Carsten Reinhardt, was awarded with the Robert K. Merton Book Award by the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association (SKAT)

Together with Soraya Boudia (Paris), Angela N. H. Creager (Princeton), Scott Frickel (Brown), Emmanuel Henry (Paris-Daphine), Nathalie Jas (INRAE) and Jody A. Roberts (Philadelphia) he published the winning book Residues: Thinking Through Chemical Environments with Rutgers University Press in 2021.
Residues offers readers a new approach for conceptualizing the environmental impacts of chemicals production, consumption, disposal, and regulation. Environmental protection regimes tend to be highly segmented according to place, media, substance, and effect; academic scholarship often reflects this same segmented approach. Yet, in chemical substances Carsten Reinhardt and his colleagues encounter phenomena that are at once voluminous and miniscule, singular and ubiquitous, regulated yet unruly. Inspired by recent studies of materiality and infrastructures, they introduce “residual materialism” as a framework for attending to the socio-material properties of chemicals and their world-making powers. Tracking residues through time, space, and understanding them helps to see how the past has been built into our present chemical environments and future-oriented regulatory systems, why contaminants seem to always evade control, and why the Anthropocene is as inextricably harnessed to the synthesis of carbon into new molecules as it is driven by carbon’s combustion.
In addition to SKAT, the work was also well received by critics such as Sara Shostak, author of Exposed Science, who states: "This erudite and accessible book presents a novel theoretical framing that draws on examples from a multiplicity of intriguing case studies from across the globe. Residues is distinguished by its collaborative authorship and multi-disciplinary and multinational scope, seeking to change how scholars in a range of disciplines study chemicals."
We congratulate Carsten Reinhardt and his colleagues for this excellent achievement and look forward to further exchanging ideas and thoughts within CeUS. 
Gesendet von AStrothotte in Publications

Meet ... Adhen Benlahlou

Veröffentlicht am 19. September 2023

Dr. Adhen Benlahlou is a research associate at the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics / Economic Theory and Computational Economics at Bielefeld University.  

What connects you to Bielefeld University?

I've always wanted to bring together my passion for economic models and my wish to apply them as a policy making tool. During my master and doctoral studies, I've gotten into touch with structural econometric models which is an explicit combination of economic theories and statistical models. This method is not limited to the study of objects limited to economics. The discovery of these porosities led me to look for a place where game theory is not limited to one application. Bielefeld University, with its long tradition of interdisciplinarity, was an obvious choice when I looked for a place to conduct a post-doc in line with this desire for openness.

What role does Uncertainty play in your research?

My research lays at the intersection of the economics of networks and the economics of science and innovation. More precisely, how the interactions structure between individuals (researcher, inventors, adopters, etc..) will influence their decisions. Scientific research is uncertain by nature. In a current project, I’m interested by how the PhD advisor's attitude towards uncertainty influences the PhD student's career. This raises an important question in terms of public policy: should we favor young researchers' early exposure to uncertainty? 

To what extent is interdisciplinarity important in your work?

Being interested by economics of science, interdisciplinary research has always been at the core of my work. Indeed, it would be difficult for me to study the interactions between individuals producing knowledge without drawing from the sociology of science, as well as discrete mathematics to better understand the structure of networks (graph theory). As my work also has an empirical dimension, it would be difficult for me to abstract from interactions with computer scientists, for instance when it comes to the creation of relevant databases, but also with statisticians. 

What would you like to accomplish in a Center for Uncertainty Studies?

CeUS is a fertile ground for collaborations with top researchers from a broad spectrum of the social sciences. I would like to contribute to other fields with quantitative approaches that help to distinguish behaviours arising from, but also responding to, uncertainty. In this way, I believe that ways of navigating uncertainty can be more easily detected and studied in different fields. In addition, exchanges with researchers from different disciplines enrich our understanding of the phenomena involved, as well as the range of questions raised.

The first CeUS conference ("Navigating Uncertainty: Preparing Society for the Future") took place in Bielefeld at the beginning of June - which moments were particularly exciting for you? What do you take away?

The first CeUS conference underlined the fact that uncertainty is a subject studied by many disciplines with different points of view. During the various discussions, it became clear that people from different fields, with different terminology, are interested in the same phenomena. 

This conference illustrated that dialogue between disciplines is entirely possible, which bodes well for future cross-fertilization between disciplines to improve our understanding of uncertainty.  

To sum it up: Do you have specific strategies in your personal or professional life to deal with uncertainty?

For most people, uncertainty is synonymous of unease and insecurity. Recall that research is by definition uncertain, and we never know in advance what our conclusions will be. In order to manage uncertainty in my research, I try to build up a portfolio of more or less uncertain projects to ensure a certain level of production, without being closed to more adventurous projects.

Thank you very much!


Gesendet von AStrothotte in Research News

Meet ... Gerrit Bauch

Veröffentlicht am 15. August 2023

Gerrit Bauch ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Mathematische Wirtschaftsforschung

Gerrit Bauch is a research associate at the Center for Mathematical Economics at Bielefeld University and a member of CeUS.

Dear Gerrit, what connects you to Bielefeld University?

I've always wanted to bring together my passion for mathematical models and my wish to apply it to real-world applications. During my master studies at Heidelberg University, I've gotten into touch with game and decision theory under uncertainty - for me the perfect mix of mathematics and economic application. After some searching it became clear that Bielefeld University offers the perfect place for this kind of academic prospect. Following in the footprints of Reinhard Selten, especially the Center for Mathematical Economics has ever since become a hub for interdisciplinary researchers who aspire to provide the social sciences with formal mathematical foundations - exactly what I have been looking for.

What role does Uncertainty play in your research?

My research deals with imprecise probabilistic information, also known as "Knightian Uncertainty". You see, there's an important difference between situations where probabilities can be quantified or are unknown: Imagine an urn containing 100 balls, either of red or black color respectively. If, e.g., it is known that exactly 50 balls are black, we can assign probabilities for each draw, granting us access to the apparatus of probability theory. In contrast, if the number of black/red balls is unknown, we can't confidently assign precise probabilities to the outcomes. Hence there could be 0-100 black balls and only one out of 101 Bayesian models describes the correct statistics of the urn in question. We thus rather face ranges for the probability of drawing a black ball.

I'm interested in how people (should) cope with Knightian Uncertainty and their theoretical implications.

To what extent is interdisciplinarity important in your work?

Being based at the Center for Mathematical Economics, interdisciplinary research has always been in the center of my post-master career. This is even true beyond the intersection of mathematics and economics. Some of my research touches the realms of linguistics, explaining robustness properties of formal languages when facing errors in communication. In another project, I have been working on a partnership dissolution mechanism used in joint ventures. Eliciting uncertainty as a sufficient driver for an efficient outcome mitigates the importance of court decisions on the assignment of roles among co-owners.

What would you like to accomplish in a Center for Uncertainty Studies?

CeUS and the MODUS initiative have opened my horizon for further interdisciplinary cooperation with top researchers from other social sciences. More concretely, I wish to contribute to other fields with formal approaches that help to quantify and distinguish different sources of uncertainty. By doing so, I believe that modes of navigating uncertainty can more easily be detected and characterized further across different fields. In addition, talking to researchers from different fields unravels instances of real-world approaches to dealing with uncertainty that have not yet been described in economics, sparking new modeling ideas.

The first CeUS conference ("Navigating Uncertainty: Preparing Society for the Future") took place in Bielefeld at the beginning of June - which moments were particularly exciting for you? What do you take away?

The first CeUS conference has stressed that uncertainty is a pervasive topic, relevant to almost every field. It became clear to me that people from many fields follow similar lines of thinking while not yet having been able to combine their thoughts and forces to overcome one of the biggest distresses of our society.

An intriguing idea that especially stood out to me as a decision theorist was a suggestion by Carlo Jäger, the chairman of the Global Climate Forum. Instead of asking politicians for a concrete action to take (such as whether or not to lock-down the country), they can be advised of possible decision rules, describing general qualitative properties of dealing with uncertainty, and asked to pick among those. On that basis, an optimal action to be implemented can be derived.

To sum it up: Do you have specific strategies in your personal or professional life to deal with uncertainty?

For many people, uncertainty goes along with a feeling of unease and insecurity. However, we should not forget that uncertainty also offers opportunities. In that sense, I aim to confine uncertainty to the extent that I feel comfortable, but at the same time stay open for positive surprises.  

Thank you very much!

Further info about Gerrit Bauch is available here: https://gbauch.github.io/

Gesendet von AStrothotte in Research News

Deutschlandfunk berichtet über Uncertainty-Forschung aus Bielefeld

Veröffentlicht am 18. Juli 2023

Der Deutschlandfunk hat im Rahmen der Sendung „Systemfragen“ unter dem Titel „Vielfachkrisen / Kann Unsicherheit produktiv sein?“ über die vom Bielefelder Center for Uncertainty Studies ausgerichtete Konferenz „Navigating Uncertainty: Preparing Society for the Future“ und die Forschungsinitiative „Modi und Effekte des Navigierens von Unsicherheit in der Gesellschaft“ (MODUS) berichtet. 

„Unsicherheit zu spüren muss […] im Zusammenleben nicht zwingend etwas Negatives bedeuten“, meint Professorin Silke Schwandt. Sie kritisiert, „dass Unsicherheit ganz stark negativ konnotiert ist und es darum geht, Unsicherheit zu vermeiden, zu reduzieren, mindestens einmal zu kontrollieren und aus der Welt zu schaffen […]. Wir würden argumentieren, dass Unsicherheit durchaus positive Effekte in der Gesellschaft haben kann und, dass es uns darum geht, anzuschauen, wie das Entscheidungshandeln oder auch die Modes of Navigating, also die Modi des Navigierens von Unsicherheit auf Akteursebene - und damit meinen wir Individuen als auch Kollektive […] - konstruktive Effekte auf Gesellschaft haben können.“

 Diese Modi bilden den Schwerpunkt der Forschungsinitiative, an der zahlreiche internationale und interdisziplinäre Forscher*innen beteiligt sind. „Der Wirtschaftsmathematiker Manuel Förster hat z.B. mit seinem Team die Auswirkungen von Verunsicherung auf die Verbreitung von Falschinformationen in einem Modell berechnet. Fazit: Wer sich unsicher ist, ist eher bereit, eine Information zu überprüfen, die er oder sie z.B. im Netz findet. […] Hier kann Unsicherheit dazu führen, dass Menschen nicht so leicht auf Fake News hereinfallen.“

Die Wissenschaftlerin Carolina Falcão demgegenüber hat sich an der Rural Federal University of Pernambuco in Brasilien intensiv mit dem Werk des indigenen Menschenrechts- und Umweltaktivisten Ailton Krenak beschäftigt. Falcão meint, „dass die Menschen in Brasilien tendenziell besser mit Unsicherheit und Ungewissheit umgehen können als hier in Europa […].“

Auch Andreas Zick kommt in dem Beitrag zu Wort: „Wir haben festgestellt, dass die Verunsicherung stark zugenommen hat. Verunsicherung, wie sich z.B. ausdrückt in einem Misstrauen gegenüber politischen Entscheidungen […].“ Die Forschenden um den Direktor des Instituts für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung (IKG) haben im Rahmen der letzten Mitte-Studie herausgefunden, dass mehr als jede fünfte Person in Deutschland (repräsentative Stichprobe) sich aktuell einen Führer wünsche, der das Volk zum Wohle aller regiert. „Das sind Ergebnisse in Krisenzeiten“, hält der Forscher im DLF-Interview fest. 

In solchen Krisenzeiten „gilt in Demokratien erstmal das Umschauen nach Expertise, nach Rat, nach Solidarität und Zusammenhalt. Wir haben in den Demokratien lauter Modi des Navigierens, die wir nur nicht nutzen. Das ist etwas, was uns beunruhigt.“

Für Silke Schwandt, deren Kommentar den Radio-Beitrag abschließt, liegt die Kernherausforderung darin, zu verstehen, wo die Verunsicherung liegt, um sie dann vielleicht in eine Zukunftsoffenheit umdeuten zu können. Um noch mehr über die Aktivitäten der Forschungsinitiative zu erfahren, können Interessierte den Beitrag beim Deutschlandfunk nachhören und auch der CeUS Blog begleitet die Forschenden und ihre Arbeit.

Gesendet von AStrothotte in Research News

Welcome to the Center for Uncertainty Studies Blog

Veröffentlicht am 12. Juli 2023

CeUS is a knowledge platform for the development of inter- and transdisciplinary "Uncertainty Studies" at Bielefeld University. CeUS documents, connects and presents not only research on "Uncertainty" but also knowledge on this topic in general. It creates a platform for faculties, institutes and research networks that touch the field of Uncertainty Research. In addition to the expansion of existing research foci, new, innovative research ideas are developed.

In the future, this blog will feature news about CeUS events, publications, researchers and activities in the media. The CeUS team welcomes suggestions and comments.

Gesendet von AStrothotte in Research News
Tags: welcome ceus


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