DFG Research Unit 2448

Practicing Evidence – Evidencing Practice

The aim of our research group – consisting of projects from the humanities and social sciences – is to investigate the practices of evidence as a ‘negotiation process’ concerned with the reliability of knowledge within current knowledge societies. Starting from the premise that evidence advanced as a central, but therefore contested resource, which also ensures societal cohesion, we focus our investigation on how evidence is generated and applied

During the first research phase, we identified a range of concrete evidence practices across the various subprojects that were, and continue to be, performed; both in relation to, and delimination from, each other. Consequentially, the notion of the contingency of evidence came to the fore, whereby new stocks of knowledge or constellations of problems destabilized established certainties in an epistemic or social respect. Thus, a new need for restabilization emerged in order to rehabilitate the guaranteeing authorities of evidence or to provide new ones.

The second phase of the research program continues to exploit these findings on the contingency of evidence. We will investigate the ways in which processes of de- and re-stabilization appear and the shifts in dynamics that follow for the epistemic, normative and institutional orders. To do so we will analyze the de- and restabilizing implications of “scientification”, (e)valuations and institutionalizations. While for one group of projects the trustworthiness of science as an institution is the focal point, the other group investigates various fields of mediation and application, in which a growing need for societal accepted knowledge leads to new practices of producing, mediating and using evidence. We will utilize the hermeneutical and empirical competencies of all participating disciplines and interpret the findings gained via these three analytical dimensions in a trans-disciplinarily manner.

Our research is firstly driven by questions concerned with the factors and drivers of evidence critique: who puts evidence into question, in which ways and with which claims? Secondly, we analyze cultures of evidence – particularly across disciplinary boundaries. Thirdly, we aim to identify in which overarching evidence regime the establishment and the dissolving of evidence is   embedded. In doing so, the research group will open up new shared perspectives across multi-disciplinary fields, to better understand the constitution and change of the late modern knowledge society.

We aim to show that democratically constituted societies need to adapt to the provisional nature of evidence and to accept the reflexivity of evidence practices. Thus, our research group contributes to the understanding of those socio-epistemic changes that have become visible since the epochal break of the 1970s. The findings will help to contextualize and to historicize contemporary diagnoses of an alleged ‘post-truth’ era.