Home

Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities

PhD-course

Numbers for policy: Practical problems in quantification

Advanced course directed towards PhD-candidates and postdoctoral fellows in quantitative sciences and in particular fields of research that produce evidence for public policy and decision making. Students from both the natural sciences, social sciences and health sciences are welcome. The five day course will take place 13. - 17. March 2017 at the University of Bergen campus.

About the course

The course introduces concepts of responsible quantification as an antidote to inconsiderate uses of numbers both within and outside of academia. It shows the pitfalls to be avoided and offers - with examples - tools and recipes for reasonable uses of quantitative methods.    

The course takes inspiration from the works of Jerome R. Ravetz, historian and philosopher of science, author of important works on the relation between science and society and science and power, together with Silvio Funtowicz the father of post-normal science.    

Ravetz reminds us time and time again that one of the main problems with a scientific education is that we are taught that each problem has one and only one solution, and that nothing can go wrong when reality is framed to a model, all this thanks to proper mathematics.

The damage done to students one day and working scientists the next is dramatically evident in the production of bogus or implausible or irrelevant quantifications against which scholars of different persuasions (from philosophers of science to fathers of the ecological movement) have battled with now for over half a century.  The issue is compounded today by the emergence of serious problems in the system of quality control of science which has in statistical and mathematical modelling a point of intense vulnerability and friction, as the daily bulletin on reproducibility, p-hacking and other statistical malpractices - from epidemiology to criminology, from pharmacology to psychology - keeps reminding us.

The present course is intended hence as a modest epistemological therapy, a sort of deprogramming which by way of examples introduces the students to concepts of responsible quantification, while showing the pitfalls of reductionism and how this manifests itself in mathematical or statistical based modelling work.

The course includes an analysis of the genesis of the Cartesian Dream of prediction and control of nature and society thanks to the power of a mathematized science. We discuss the incredible success of the dream as well as its historical, philosophical and ecological critique.

Specifically we explore the role of quantification in the context of the dream and of its variants in the field of Economics. Other themes touched are quantification as reductionism and hypocognition, and cost benefit analysis versus multi-criteria analysis.

The course also tackles current problems of quantification in the context of science's quality control difficulties. Some technical material here touches on statistical procedures and malpractices (p-hacking being but one example), ethics of quantification and instances of corruption - and again focusing on the quantification element in the plot.

The good practices advocated and described in the course are inspired by post normal science. These include:

- the use of pedigrees for quantification such as NUSAP,

- technical sensitivity analysis,

- sensitivity auditing and

- quantitative story telling.

See more resource at: www.andreasaltelli.eu

Presentations

See Andrea Saltelli's website for an overview of the different lectures and presentations held during the course. 

Programme

Please note that there might be changes to the programme.

Monday 13.3

9.15–10.00

Round table presentation. Discussion of participants’ motivations for attending the course.

Trainers and participants 45 m

10.00–10.15

Break

 

10.15–11.00

Introduction to the course. What is wrong with ‘Doubt has been eliminated’?

Professor Roger Strand

11.00–11.15

Break

 

11.15–12.00

Science: is there a crisis? The case of the p-test

Professor  Andrea Saltelli

12.00–12.15

Break

 

12.15–13.00

When Laypeople are Right and Experts are Wrong: Lessons from Love Canal.

Professor Ragnar Fjelland

13.00–14.00

Lunch

 

14.00–16.00

Group work

 

 

Tuesday 14.3

9.15–10.00

Why Quantify? Quantification and trust; Evidence based policy and its opposite; Evidence as the currency of the lobbies; The Mathiness discussion in Economics;

Professor Andrea Saltelli

10.00–10.15

Break

 

10.15–11.00

The origins of the Cartesian dream; Galileo and modelling

Professor Roger Strand

11.00–11.15

Break

 

11.15–12.00

Climate blues and climate wars; 

Professor Jeroen van der Sluijs and Professor Andrea Saltelli

12.00–12.15

Break

 

12.15–13.00

Issues with ethics; Hippocratic oath and policy failures. 

 

Professor Matthias Kaiser

13.00–14.00

Lunch

 

14.00–16.00

Group work

 

 

 

Wednesday 15.3

9.15–10.00

Prodromes of PNS: Trans-science; Three types of risk assessment: The rainbow diagram and its evolution; Post-normal science & legacy: Facts-Values, Models of Science & Policy.

Professor Silvio Funtowicz

10.00–10.15

Break

 

10.15–11.00

Continuing “Prodromes of PNS…”

Professor Silvio Funtowicz

11.00–11.15

Break

 

11.15–12.00

NUSAP’s history and practice

Professor Jeroen van der Sluijs

12.00–12.15

Break

 

12.15–13.00

The now of science.

Professor  Andrea Saltelli and Professor Silvio Funtowicz

13.00–14.00

Lunch

 

14.00–16.00

Group work

 

 

Thursday 16.3

9.15–10.00

Sensitivity analysis; Why most published sensitivity analysis are wrong; Good practices; A bit of calculus; The case of the Stern Review; The secrets of sensitivity analysis

Professor  Andrea Saltelli

10.00–10.15

Break

 

10.15–11.00

Continuing “Sensitivity analysis …”

Professor  Andrea Saltelli

11.00–11.15

Break

 

11.15–12.00

Continuing “Sensitivity analysis …”

Professor Andrea Saltelli

12.00–12.15

Break

 

12.15–13.00

Sensitivity analysis in and with NUSAP.  

Professor Jeroen van der Sluijs

13.00–14.00

Lunch

 

14.00–16.00

Group work

 

 

Friday 17.3

9.15–10.00

On Reductionism

Professor Ragnar Fjelland

10.00–10.15

Break

 

10.15–11.00

Sensitivity auditing; The seven rules with illustrations; Quantitative story telling against hypocognition & Socially constructed ignorance; Decalogue of the diligent quantifier

Professor Andrea Saltelli and Professor Silvio Funtowicz

11.00–11.15

Break

 

11.15–12.00

Continuing “Sensitivity auditing…”

Professor Andrea Saltelli and Professor Silvio Funtowicz

12.00–12.15

Break

 

12.15–13.00

Discussion

 

13.00–14.00

Lunch

 

14.00–15.00

Lessons learned and discussion.

 

Professor Andrea Saltelli

Supporting Material

‘Resource’ means material for further reading. ‘Read’ means material for the course. 

Lesson 1

Read excerpts: Resource Ravetz, J., 1971, Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems, Oxford University Press.

Read: Chapter 1. Resource: Benessia, A., Funtowicz, S., Giampietro, M., Guimarães Pereira, A., Ravetz, J., Saltelli, A., Strand, R., van der Sluijs, J., 2015, The Rightful Place of Science: Science on the verge, Published by The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University.

Read: Ragnar Fjelland, 2016, When Laypeople are Right and Experts are Wrong: Lessons from Love Canal, HYLE – International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, Vol. 22 (2016), 105-125.

Lesson 2

Read Chapter 8. Resource: Winner, L., 1986. The Whale and the Reactor: a Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. The University of Chicago Press.

Read excerpts. Resource: E. F. Schumacher, 1973, Small Is Beautiful. Economics as if People Mattered, Harper Perennial 2010.

Read Saltelli, A., Stark, P.B., Becker, W., and Stano, P. , 2015, Climate Models as Economic Guides. Scientific Challenge or Quixotic Quest? Issues in Science and Technology (IST), Volume XXXI Issue 3, Spring 2015.

Read Jeroen P. van der Sluijs, 2012, Uncertainty and Dissent in Climate Risk Assessment: A Post-Normal Perspective, Nature and Culture 7(2), Summer 2012: 174–195 © Berghahn Journals doi:10.3167/nc.2012.070204.

Lesson 3

Resource: Funtowicz, S & Ravetz J 1990, Uncertainty and Quality in Science for Policy, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

Read Funtowicz, S & Ravetz J, undated, NUSAP - The Management of Uncertainty and Quality in Quantitative Information.

Read Jeroen P. van der Sluijs, James S. Risbey and Jerry Ravetz, 2005, Uncertainty Assessment of VOC Emissions from Paint in the Netherlands Using the NUSAP System, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (2005) 105: 229–259, DOI: 10.1007/s10661-005-3697-7.

Lesson 4

Resource: Saltelli, A., Ratto, M., Andres, T., Campolongo, F., Cariboni, J., Gatelli, D. Saisana, M., Tarantola, S., 2008, Global Sensitivity Analysis. The Primer, John Wiley & Sons publishers.

Read Saltelli, A., Annoni, P., 2010, How to avoid a perfunctory sensitivity analysis, Environmental Modeling and Software, 25, 1508-1517.  

Read Saltelli, A., D’Hombres, B., Sensitivity analysis didn't help. A practitioner's critique of the Stern review, 2010, Global Environmental Change, 20, 298-302.  

 

Lesson 5

Read Saltelli, A., Funtowicz, S., 2014, When all models are wrong: More stringent quality criteria are needed for models used at the science-policy interface, Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2014, 79-85.

Read Saltelli, A., Giampietro, M., Ravetz, J.R., 2016, Decalogue of the diligent quantifier. A Pledge.

Read Funtowicz, S.O. and Ravetz, J.R. (1985) Three Types of Risk Assessment: A Methodological Analysis, in: V.T. Covello, J.L. Mumpower, P.J.M. Stallen and V.R.R. Uppuluri (eds) Environmental Impact Assessment, Technology Assessment, and Risk Analysis, pp. 831–48, New York: Springer.

Audio-visual material:

Workshop on responsible quantification, with videos.

 

Admission

PhD-candidates and postdocs are eligible to apply. Applicants will be asked to describe their research project (max. 2000 words) while signing up. 

Early bird - sign up before 16. January and receive an answer (Yes/No/Waiting list) by 19 January.

Late registration - sign up before 23. February and receive answer by 26. February.

After 23. February - contact course admin. 

Accreditation

3 / 5 ECTS

Requirements for 3 ECTS version:
a) preparation: reading of course material 
b) preparation: submission of 1-2 page text where they explain their "problem" or "concern" or other reflection that fit the course topic 
c) attendance 
d) short "reflection memo" after the course

 

Requirements for 5 ECTS version:
a) preparation: reading of course material 
b) preparation: submission of 1-2 page text where they explain their "problem" or "concern" or other reflection that fit the course topic 
c) attendance 
d) submission of outline/topic for final essay
e) final essay

The course participants themselves are each responsible for course approval at home institution / department.