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Diagrams can help to improve science communication through visual representation of our findings, but there are…

Diagrams can help to improve science communication through visual representation of our findings, but there are additional benefits for researchers. For example, they help us to plan and organise our data and concepts. This excellent post by Daniel Estrada explains why diagrams are important in biology. 

#SoG+CuratorsChoice by Zuleyka Zevallos who enjoys seeing seemingly taken-for-granted practices explored in-depth. #biology  

Originally shared by Daniel Estrada

Why do biologists use so many diagrams?

> Diagrams play a central role in biology because they are highly suited to two key tasks: (1) displaying phenomena at various levels of detail, and (2) constructing mechanistic explanations for those phenomena.

// I’ve been studying William Bechtel’s recent work on mechanistic explanations in the sciences. ( The core of the view is that “mechanistic explanations address organized systems”; Bechtel argues that an abstracting to the level of “patterns of connectivity” among components is often necessary to explain and understand the organization and dynamics of a mechanism. 

Bechtel’s examples focus on mechanistic explanations in biology; the diagram attached below demonstrates the mechanism describing a circadian oscillator in mammals. Bechtel has recently done work describing the role these network diagrams have in the context of scientific explanation. In a recent series of papers, he describes some ways that science and especially biology have come to increasingly rely on network representations of complex mechanisms for explanatory purposes.

Why do Biologists use so many Diagrams?

Roles of Diagrams in Computational Modeling of Mechanisms (image taken from here): 

// I’ve known about Bechtel for a while from cognitive science and the philosophy of mind, but this is the first I’ve studied his view closely, and I find the framework to be convincing and useful. However, I’m curious to know what the working scientists and biologists in my stream think about Bechtel’s philosophy of science, and whether it accords with your own experiences. How closely tied are mechanisms, explanations, and complex representations?

More from Bechtel’s working group on diagrams in science:

If John Baez doesn’t know of this work already he might find it interesting. More on networks in science here:

#networks   #philosophy   #science  


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