Mieke Boon is a full professor Philosophy of Science in Practice in the Philosophy Department at the University of Twente. This department focusses on the Philosophy of Technology.
Current (interrelated) research interests are:
1) Philosophy of science for the engineering sciences
Is our picture of science adequate to understand the role of science and scientific research in (complex) design and problem-solving contexts? This research started in 2003 and aims to deconstruct the general picture of science and to come up with an alternative, in order to provide new conceptual frameworks that can help us to critically reflect on these research practices. This philosophical alternative has largely been developed in previous Vidi and Vici/Aspasia projects. Currently, it continues by addressing partly new topics such as:
- Ethics and epistemology of AI / Big Data / Machine Learning Technology in applications such as personalized medicine, scientific research and the training of human experts.
- Man and Machine - the role of human expertise in a digital society, which covers a number of topics such as hybrid intelligence, human dignity, and understanding AI systems.
- Epistemology and Methodology of scientific research in (engineering) design and problem-solving contexts. The focus is on the epistemological role of scientific models and modeling.
- Epistemology of human research strategies (i.e. epistemic strategies), which includes the roles of creativity, imagination, understanding, reflection and constructive thinking about ill-structured problems.
- Epistemology of interdisciplinary collaborations in design and problem-solving contexts.
- Epistemological responsibility in scientific research aimed at design and problem-solving contexts.
2) Science and engineering education:
Universities expect that philosophy will contribute to the development of academic skills such as critical thinking in students. However, this usually proves to be quite a challenge. At the same time, education policy and academic education programs foresee that academic skills training must become increasingly important, firstly because these skills are crucial to tackling complex, interdisciplinary (societal) problems, and secondly because society is changing rapidly so that the knowledge learned is quickly outdated, which requires professionals to have the ability to learn new things all the time. The research into 'Science and engineering education' is, therefore, looking for ways to translate the philosophical insights that have emerged from research in the 'philosophy of science for engineering sciences' into 'service teaching' for academic engineering programs. This combined educational research and development takes place in interdisciplinary collaborations with educational researches and teachers. The emphasis is on questions such as:
- What are the academic skills that must be trained in academic engineering education?
- How can these academic skills be trained, and do we actually achieve what we aim for?
- How can the philosophy of science teaching support the development of these skills?
- Is the way in which we usually teach science (for example, fundamental courses such as Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, etc.) appropriate for learning to use science for actually doing scientific research in design and problem-solving contexts?
- Can alternative pictures of science shed new light on these issues?
Mieke Boon is a full professor Philosophy of Science in Practice in the Philosophy Department at the University of Twente. This department focusses on the Philosophy of Technology. Boon has a solid background in scientific research in the engineering sciences. In 1987, she obtained an MSc degree (cum laude) in Chemical Engineering at Twente University of Technology (UT). In 1996, she received a Ph.D. degree (cum laude) in Biotechnology at the Technical University Delft (TUD). Between 1988 and 1995, she studied Philosophy at Leiden University (RUL) with a special interest in the history of philosophy, ethics, and philosophy of science. Between 1996 and 2000 she coordinated a multi-disciplinary research project (NWO-STW) on technologies for bacterial sulfur removal at TUDelft.
Motivation and organization:
Boon is motivated by the search for connections between theory and practice, and between university and society. She was involved in the founding of the Kivi Afdeling Filosofie en Techniek (1988), where she chaired a working group in Ethics and Technology (1988-1992). From 1997 until 2003 she chaired the Animal Use and Care Committee of the Free University of Amsterdam (VU-DEC). In 2004, she initiated the Female Faculty Network Twente (FFNT), of which she was chairwoman until 2006. In 2006, she initiated the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP), of which she was a board member until 2016. Between 2015 and 2019 she has been a member of the European Philosophy of Science Association (EPSA) steering committee. Since 2015, she chairs the Section Theoretical Philosophy of National Dutch Research School in Philosophy (OZSW).
Between 2003-2008, she has been working on a personal research grant from the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO-VIDI beurs in het kader van de Vernieuwingsimpuls) on developing a Philosophy of Science for the Engineering Sciences. Between 2012-2017 she worked on a personal research grant (NWO-Vici/Aspasia), The Context of Construction – Philosophy of Science and the Engineering Sciences. Currently, she is involved in a research project on teaching interdisciplinary engineering education (IEE) of the 4TU Centre for Engineering Education (CEE), and in an NRO project (EXChange) investigating transfer from honors to regular educational programs.
Boon is a core teacher in the master program Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS) and in the bachelor program of the ATLAS University College Twente. She also delivers philosophy service-teaching in other educational programs at the UT, teaching “Ethics and Technology”, “Professional Ethics”, “Philosophy of Science”, “Philosophy of Technology.”
My research project entitled “Using science in technology: towards a philosophy of the engineering sciences” aims at a philosophy of engineering sciences that provides a more adequate understanding of the role of science in technology.
The focus concerns scientific research of complex systems in which interrelated physical, chemical, and biological processes occur, such as biochemical and biomedical technologies. The proper technological design of these advanced technologies calls for scientifically informed approaches. This requires a better understanding of how scientific knowledge is produced that is applicable to these systems. In the philosophy of technology, this type of knowledge production has been neglected, probably because up till now the focus has been on the design of artifacts and not on industrial processes. A central focus of this work is how scientists in the ‘laboratory sciences’ develop scientific theories, laws and models, instruments and experiments, in particular, on how their reasoning in these practices can be better understood. Several of the themes are: empiricism, phenomena, scientific laws, models, scientific instruments, scientific explanations and understanding, and the construction of models.
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Einstein, Bohr and Mach were not only great physicists; they also raised philosophical issues relevant to science. These were about proper scientific methodology, the physical interpretation of theories, and how we have access to the world behind the phenomena. Today, these questions are still important, and also new questions need to be asked. How can we assess the quality of scientific research? Can we specify methodological approaches in the engineering sciences? How are scientific research and technological innovation related? Why is it so difficult to work multi- or inter-disciplinary. How are societal values to be embedded in scientific research? My scientific research has taken a new philosophical approach towards these questions (the approach of philosophy of science in practice), with emphasis on how science is actually done. Of particular interest are methods for constructing models, for the use of instruments, and for merging causal-mechanistic and mathematical approaches in scientific research. Philosophy of science workshops that aim to address these questions, have been organized for PhD students and their supervisors within the Twente Research Institute for Nanotechnology, MESA+. In these three-weekly workshops, we discuss philosophical themes relevant for scientific research, and scientific work of these PhD students.
Affiliated Study Programmes
Courses Academic Year 2021/2022
Courses Academic Year 2020/2021
University of Twente
Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Drienerburght (building no. 44), room 101