Evidence: The Use and Misuse of Data
Inspired by its 2020 exhibition Dr. Franklin, Citizen Scientist, the American Philosophical Society Library & Museum is organizing a daylong symposium that explores the nature of evidence. The symposium reflects Benjamin Franklin’s many different uses of information and data throughout his life. His work with electricity relied on experimental data, while his work in oceanography relied on observed data as well as the incorporation of ideas borrowed from other observers. As a newspaper publisher and essayist, he produced and often reproduced news and other important information. Through his almanacs, he shared a wide range of knowledge with the public. Later in life, his service on a French commission investigating mesmerism deployed the scientific method to test the reliability of evidence itself. Given Franklin’s myriad uses of and approaches to evidence, the APS Library & Museum invites innovative proposals from scholars who wish to explore the past, present, and future use of evidence and data.
Potential topics include (but are not limited to):
- The various ways evidence has been interpreted differently over time and the ways it has been applied and misapplied to shape policy and decisions;
- The past, present, and future methods used to collect evidence and present findings, and the opportunities and potential problems associated with such methods;
- The presence and misuse of bad data, erroneous evidence, and misinformation, and the ways such material have affected the production of knowledge and threaten it today;
- The role of bias during data collection and its interpretation by scholars;
- The opportunities and perils presented when evidence produces unexpected results.