I recently read David Faust and Paul Meehl’s 2002 article Using Meta‐Scientific Studies to Clarify or Resolve Questions in the Philosophy and History of Science.
I am just catching up on Meehl’s work, which has been incredibly influential on the current metascientific movement and drive to improve science. It’s common to hear that for any given idea or reform, Meehl had the idea long before.
This article, as its title indicates, argues that many issues in the philosophy of science could be addressed with more systematic study (metascience):
It was, and remains, the conviction of both authors that this pessimistic pronouncement [the metascience will not be useful] was wrong on both scores and that the meta-scientific approach or program that we will describe should have just the opposite effect, that is, that it will sharpen traditional problems and create new ones involving issues that are often central to historians and philosophers of science, leading to many productive undertakings. These problems and questions involve such matters as: What features of theories predict their long-term survival? To what extent are these features similar across disciplines and domains? Stated differently, meta-science should provide rich and hardy grist for the mill of historians, logicians, and philosophers of science.
They go on to note that there is a lot of subjectivity and cherry-picking of examples in the philosophy of science. They then suggest two areas in which metascience could help: figuring out better ways to assess grant applications and whether theories will prove successful.
As I noted, much of this work is finally happening. For instance, DARPA is looking into an algorithm that can predict whether research is replicable (and are working with the University of Melbourne’s Interdisciplinary MetaResearch Group).
I’m looking forward to delving into more of Meehl’s work.