Large ERC Consolidator Grants for Philosophy Projects (2020)

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the winners of its 2020 Consolidator Grants, and among them are a few philosophers.

They are:

  • Lino Camprubí, University of Seville
    “DEEPMED: Discovering the Deep Mediterranean Environment: A History of Science and Strategy (1860-2020)”
    Few geographical spaces have been more relevant to human life and more intensively theorized than the Mediterranean Sea. Today, this sea poses some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities for European economic, security, and environmental policies. Answers to how to manage the region depend on ideas and perceptions of integration and division of the basin and its peoples. But the Mediterranean as a spatial concept has radically changed in the last 160 years as humans have gained access to its depths, unveiling an underwater world to discover, exploit, and navigate. The Mediterranean has become a volume. DEEPMED is the first historical account of the discovery of the deep Mediterranean environment. Its main hypothesis is that science and strategy jointly made the Mediterranean depths into an object of analysis and a political space, which in turn shaped science and strategy in the region. DEEPMED pursues three specific objectives: 1) identifying the actors and contexts that enabled perceptions and practices of depth in the Med; 2) describing how natural and human time-scales interact in this body of water, and 3) tracking key conceptual landmarks defining the uniqueness and representativeness of the Mediterranean volume vis à vis the global ocean. DEEPMED is the first basin-scale step in a novel approach to oceanic history that incorporates analyses of deep and bottom layers of the Sea to gauge the causes and effects of the historical emergence of depth. This requires an innovative interdisciplinary, transnational and digital methodology. The project identifies overarching trajectories of human engagement with depths from the mid-19th century to the present, including a historical epistemology of ocean knowledge as well as contrasting timelines and perspectives. The availability of digital tools for creating a database that facilitates geospatial and visual analyses make the project timely. The current security and environmental Mediterranean crises make it essential.
  • Sabina Leonelli, University of Exeter
    €2,000,000 ($2,415,000)
    “A Philosophy of Open Science for Diverse Research Environments”
    This project will develop an empirically grounded philosophy of Open Science [OS] that emphasises the diversity of research environments around the world and articulates the conditions under which OS can leverage such diversity to promote good research practice. The OS movement is transforming research, with OS policies adopted around the globe and widespread agreement on implementing key OS principles like openness, transparency and reproducibility. However, the philosophy of science underpinning the OS movement has not been clearly articulated. Moreover, there are significant epistemic risks in implementing OS across widely different research settings, such as the marginalisation of contributions from low-resourced environments. This raises questions about the relation between open and good science. To address these concerns, this project combines a philosophical analysis of the epistemic significance of research environments with empirical research on how researchers working in different environments enact and conceptualise OS. This “philosophy of science in practice” [PSP] approach is ideally suited to investigating the meaning and implications of OS for the conduct of research. Building on my experience as OS advisor, this project extends PSP by grounding conceptual analysis of scientific practice on qualitative research as well as collaboration with scientists and policymakers. The result will be a novel conceptualisation of OS that reframes its key principles by outlining how exchanges across environments can boost research excellence. This is a ground-breaking contribution to the philosophy of science, where (i) little attention has been given to how OS challenges existing accounts of knowledge production, and (ii) research on epistemic diversity has focused largely on disciplinary/theoretical perspectives. The project also supports OS governance, by providing a framework that fosters research quality, inclusivity and fairness. Two postdoctoral researchers will be hired as part of the project.
  • Sebastian Watzl, University of Oslo
    “Good Attention: Attention Norms and their Role in Practical Reason, Epistemology, and Ethics”
    What deserves our attention and what can or should be ignored? What is good attention and what is bad attention?  This project concerns normative questions about attention: about, for example, appropriate, correct or rational patterns of attention. While entire fields of philosophy investigate the normative assessment of other aspects of the mind (think of belief), the normative structure of attention remains largely unstudied. We will connect our research with how attention actually works: both in an individual and in groups and societies. Normative questions about attention, of course, are important for each of us personally. Cultivating good patterns of attention is, arguably, an important aspect of self-control but also of meditative techniques. But today normative questions about attention arise most prominently in the social and economic sphere. Spin doctors, troll factories or certain political actors all aim to divert or misdirect our attention. Many think that this is bad. But why exactly is that? Think of the advertisement industry and social media – are there philosophical grounds to impose restrictions on them? Think also of current debates about who is honored in monuments, paintings and history books.  Our social and physical environments are created for certain patterns of attention. The statues of kings and generals are designed to be looked at. But what about those who cleaned the kings’ castles, or the women who were never mentioned in the history books? Is justice about a fair distribution of attention, and not only distribution of resources? In order to answer such questions, we need a theory of where norms for attention come from, how to systematically think about them, and a theory that can challenge our ordinary normative thinking about attention. In our research we will make use of social and cognitive psychology, game theory, philosophy of mind and action, as well as social epistemology and political philosophy to investigate attention norms in the contemporary context.

(Grant figures are slightly rounded.)

The ERC’s Consolidator Grants are intended to “help mid-career researchers consolidate their own teams and carry out innovative projects.” The program received 2506 proposals and funded 327 (13%) of them. You can access the full list of winners and other information about the grants here.

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