Prof. Federica Russo

c:o/re Senior Fellow 04/24-09/24

photo by Jana Hambitzer

Federica Russo is full professor in philosophy and ethics of techno-science. She holds the Westerdijk Chair at the Freudenthal Institute, Utrecht University, and she is Honorary Professor at University College London (Department of Science and Technology Studies). Her research concerns epistemological, methodological, and normative aspects they arise in the health and social sciences, with special attention to policy contexts and to the highly technologized character of these fields. Federica has published extensively on various themes, such as causation and causal modelling, evidence, and technology, and her latest monograph is titled Techno-Scientific Practices. An Informational Approach (RLI, 2022). Federica is currently editor-in-chief of Digital Society and has been co-editor in chief (with Phyllis Illari) of the European Journal for Philosophy of Science and She is member of the Steering Committee of the European Philosophy of Science Association, and External Faculty Member at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Amsterdam.


Hybrid and context-sensitive evidence in the health sciences and public health

Evidence is a central concept in Philosophy of Science and in Philosophy of Medicine. Analytic approaches have analyzed the formal relations between evidence, hypotheses, and theories, whereas evidential pluralism has drawn attention to the fact that scientific claims (and most notably causal claims) are based on evidence of correlation as well as of mechanism. In Techno-Scientific Practices: An Informational Approach (RLI, 2022), I provided a full-blown epistemology for techno-scientific practices, which also revisited and re-designed the concept of evidence, and notably offered an account of evidence as semantic information. This approach, I argued, can accommodate for different types of evidence, from material specimens to output of statistical analysis, and to emphasise that evidence is also largely constructed in our techno-scientific practices

During this fellowship, I aim to continue this programme of re-designing the concept of evidence, considering specifically two aspects of evidence as it is generated across more-and-less technologized scientific practices: its being ‘hybrid’ and ‘context-sensitive’. By ‘hybrid’, I mean that evidence is generated using different methodological approaches and at times different sources of bases. By ‘context-sensitive’, I mean that these sources or bases may pertain to quite different groups/populations, and that the instruments used for evidence generation are also part of this context. By focusing on hybrid and context-sensitive evidence, I aim (i) to undermine the alleged objectivity of evidence, by problematizing the ontological status of the evidence that we generate, and (ii) to propose that looking closely into context-sensitivity may help us re-think questions of evidence amalgamation and of policy design. I will be looking at the field of ‘Health Complexity’ as an area in which evidence has such characteristics.

Publications (selection)

Caniglia, Guido and Russo, Federica. 2024. How is who: evidence as clues for action in participatory sustainability science and public health research. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 46(4). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-023-00603-5

Russo, Federica and Kelly, Michael P. 2024. The ‘lifeworld’ of health and disease and the design of public health interventions. Longitudinal and Life Course Studies 15(1): 25-44, https://doi.org/10.1332/175795921X16835353334712

Hulvej Rod M., Hulvej Rod N., Russo, Federica, Demant Klinker C., Reis, Ria, Stronks, Karien. 2023. Promoting the health of vulnerable populations: three steps towards a system-based re-orientation of public health intervention research. Journal of Health and Place 80(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2023.102984

Russo, Federica and Hirsch, Paul. 2023. Navigating Complex Trade-Offs in Public Health Interventions. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 29: 430-437. https://doi.org/10.1111/jep.13807

Russo, Federica. 2022. Technoscientific Practices: An Informational Approach. Rowman & Littlefield International: Lanham.