The conduct of most of social science occurs outside the laboratory. Such studies in field science explore phenomena that cannot for practical, technical, or ethical reasons be explored under controlled conditions. These phenomena cannot be fully isolated from their environment or investigated by manipulation or intervention. Yet measurement, including rigorous or clinical measurement, does provide analysts with a sound basis for discerning what occurs under field conditions, and why.
In Science Outside the Laboratory, Marcel Boumans explores the state of measurement theory, its reliability, and the role expert judgment plays in field investigations from the perspective of the philosophy of science. Its discussion of the problems of passive observation, the calculus of observation, the two-model problem, and model-based consensus uses illustrations drawn primarily from economics.
Rich in research and discussion, the volume clarifies the extent to which measurement provides valid information about objects and events in field sciences, but also has implications for measurement in the laboratory. Scholars in the fields of philosophy of science, social science, and economics will find Science Outside the Laboratory a compelling and informative read.
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Marcel Boumans is historian and philosopher of science at the University of Amsterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam. His main research focus is on understanding empirical research practices in economics from a philosophy of science-in-practice perspective. He is particularly interested in the practices of measurement and modeling and the role of mathematics in social science.
"His main moral strikes me as dead right: statistical testing as a purely mechanical, a theoretical process is not going to work in economics or for that matter in medicine. Inevitably, expert judgment based on background knowledge and experience has to be added to the mix to get believable conclusions out of empirical data. Boumans works through these issues largely historically, focusing on debates between Koopmans and Haavelmo, for example, about analyzing observational data. The historical detail is well researched and interesting. He uses it to make a compelling argument that ''field studies''-nonlaboratory studies-must inevitably rely on expert judgment to get conclusions out of the data."
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