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American Mineralogist

Journal of Earth and Planetary Materials

Ed. by Baker, Don / Xu, Hongwu / Swainson, Ian

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 2.645

CiteScore 2017: 2.31

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 1.440
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 1.059

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Volume 100, Issue 8-9


Data, ideas, and the nature of scientific progress

Keith Putirka
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  • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, California State University, Fresno, 2576 East San Ramon Avenue, M/S ST24, Fresno, California 93740, U.S.A.
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Published Online: 2015-08-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2015-ed1008-94


Scientists sometimes have the idea that “data are eternal,” i.e., that our scientific observations long outlive our hypotheses and ideas based on such. In this Editorial, we make use of work by science historians Chang (2004), Danielson and Graney (2014) and others, to show that data have a limited period of usefulness-a date of expiration so to speak. Beyond that date (probably mostly unknown beforehand), data either are (1) no longer of interest, because the problems that motivated their collection are resolved or no longer of concern, or (2) because new technologies render them obsolete. Scientific progress in any era is thus defined as the art of making observations that are “good enough”-so as to develop the “middle-level” and other theories, which as discussed by Chang (2004), appear to have lasting value.

Keywords: History; philosophy; history of science; philosophy of science

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Published Online: 2015-08-12

Published in Print: 2015-08-01

Citation Information: American Mineralogist, Volume 100, Issue 8-9, Pages 1657–1658, ISSN (Online) 1945-3027, ISSN (Print) 0003-004X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2138/am-2015-ed1008-94.

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© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston.

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