Designing Scientific Knowledge Infrastructures: The Contribution of Epistemology

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Scientific knowledge is increasingly being stored in online infrastructures such as electronic journals, digital libraries and online encyclopedias. Their designers need to find an adequate approach for representing this knowledge. Unfortunately, most online infrastructures adopt the traditional article-issue-journal model which is based on print technology. This article develops an alternative model for the representation of scientific knowledge which is based on epistemology—the theory of knowledge. The characteristics of scientific knowledge identified by four philosophers of science—Popper, Nagel, Dubin and Bunge—are synthesized into a conceptual model which can be used as the foundation of scientific knowledge infrastructures in an online environment. The article shows that much more fine-grained structures are needed for representing scientific knowledge. Knowledge should not be accumulated as a collection of articles but as a network of epistemologically relevant elements such as theories, concepts, statements, facts etc.

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