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Politics of Episteme. The Epistemological Discourse of European Union

Reading Group - A.A. 2016-2017 - I-II Semester


Title: Politics of Episteme. The Epistemological Discourse of European Union

Convener: Eugenio Petrovich 


Committed students: Emiliano Tolusso, Valerio Buonomo, Cristian Mariani, Sasha D’Ambrosio



In the last decades, EU has identified scientific research as a core element in its developmental politics. Indeed, one of the three pillars of Horizon 2020, the Eight Framework Programme started in 2014, is named “Excellence in Science”. However, what is changed in time is the kind of science that UE intends to fund: specifically, the notion of “basic science” (as counterpart of “applied science”) has been replaced by notion such as “high impact science” or “frontier research”.

By the first, EU means a kind of scientific research that is not only an advancement in knowledge, but somehow an improvement in the quality of life of European citizens too. By the second, EU points out that research should be on the “frontier” in a double sense: it should be beyond actual knowledge (“groundbreaking”) and on the borders of scientific disciplines (“interdisciplinary”).

Actually, issues concerning politics of science are on the table at least since the famous report that Vannevar Bush delivered to American President Roosevelt more than 60 years ago (Science, the Endless Frontier). From that moment onward, the taxonomy by which institutions have classified scientific research is in constant evolution, producing different science policies. We can speak of a true “political epistemology” that is embodied in funding calls, research councils, EU Commission resolutions, expert reports to the European Parliament and so on.

The aim of this reading group is first to reconstruct historically this implicit political epistemology, looking for the key texts in which it is embodied and the institutions by which it is spoken. Second, we want to assess the policies by the lens of general philosophy of science, contrasting it with the big theories of science proposed by Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend and others. Finally, we are going to discuss the related topic of the evaluation of research, with a special focus on the evaluation of humanistic research in Europe and in Italy.

Structure of the RG

The Reading Group will be structured as a research group, that does not only read and comment proposed texts, but look proactively for new texts to be examined, improving the skill of its members to read the institutional language of EU and retrieve useful information in EU websites.

Moreover, four experts will be invited (depending on their disponibility) to give presentations and discuss with RG participants relevant issues concerning EU research system and beyond:

  • Tomaso Perani, PhD, Officina H2020 - Divisione Servizi per la Ricerca – UNIMI
  • Giuliano Torrengo, PhD – his research project received for two times the A valuation at ERC Grant
  • Prof. Andrea Pinotti – he served as member of Panel Social Sciences and Humanities at ERC
  • Dott.ssa Paola Galimberti, Responsabile AIR UNIMI – Member of ROARS 


We will deal with the following main topics:

  1. General philosophy of science (Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend)
  2. Science and society: what is a science policy?
  3. Research evaluation: how to evaluate research? Which is the role of humanities? How to assess the evaluation?
  4. Horizon 2020 and ERC: the research vision of European Union and its epistemological assumptions


The RG will comprehend 10 two-hour sessions scheduled approximately every two weeks, from November 2016 to April 2017.

(For more detail write to contact)


A Dropbox directory (“RG Politics of Episteme”) will be provided to collect materials!

v  M. Buzzoni (2008) Filosofia della scienza, La Scuola : Brescia

v  V. Bush, Manifesto per la rinascita di una nazione, ed. it. a cura di P. Greco, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2013

v  D. Gillies, How Should Research be Organised? College Publications, London 2008

v  Structure of Horizon 2020, available at https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/

v  Structure of ERC, available at https://erc.europa.eu/

v  European Commission (2015) Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – A Vision for Europe, Luxembourg : Publications Office of the European Union, 2015 (available for free on-line)

Suggested further bibliography:

v  D. Gillies, G. Giorello (1995) La filosofia della scienza nel 20. Secolo Roma : Laterza

v  Kuhn, T. S. (1962) La struttura delle rivoluzioni scientifiche, Einaudi, Torino 1969, 1978 e 1995

v  Lakatos, I. (1970) “La falsificazione e la metodologia dei programmi di ricerca scientifica”, in in G. Giorello (a cura di) Critica e crescita della conoscenza, Feltrinelli, Milano 1976, pp. 164-276

v  Feyerabend, P.K. (1975) Contro il metodo, Feltrinelli, Milano 1979

v  Speeches of the EU Commissioners for Research, Science and Innovation, available at http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm

v  EU 2016 “Qualitative Evaluation of completed projects founded by the European Research Council”, available at https://erc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/document/file/Qualitative_Evaluation_of_completed_projects_funded_by_the_ERC.pdf

v   P. Galimberti (UNIMI), “Qualità e quantità. Stato dell’arte della valutazione della ricerca nelle scienze umane in Italia”, available at: https://www.academia.edu/15408899/Quality_and_quantity_HSS_research_evaluation_in_Italy._A_state_of_the_art

v  F. Pontani (Roars) “Come funziona il reclutamento nelle università”, Il Post 11 oct 2016 (available at http://www.ilpost.it/2016/10/11/assunzioni-universita/ )

v  European Commission (2015) I finanziamenti dell’Unione europea. Una guida per principianti, Luxembourg : Publications Office of the European Union, 2015 (available for free on-line)

11 November 2016
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