Julia Sánchez-Dorado is a philosopher and historian of science whose work explores how scientific models, especially in the Earth sciences, contribute to our understanding of complex phenomena. Her research interests also include the problems of representation, creativity, and abstraction in science and art.

Julia received her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from University College London in 2019. She then became an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Technical University of Berlin (2020–22), and was also a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2020), the University of Vienna (2022), and the Smithsonian Institution in D.C. (2023).

Beyond Similarity and Reduction: Understanding Complex Phenomena Through Simple Models
ICI Project 2022-24

The aim of this project is to investigate the cognitive resources that scientists use to construct successful models of parts of reality. Good models often represent highly complex natural or social systems in a simple, idealized, and abstract way. Advancing a comprehensive explanation of this puzzling fact can be most fruitfully achieved if a philosophical analysis of how models represent is combined with empirical and historical evidence of how actual scientific communities make model-target (or model-world) comparisons in their practices.

Accordingly, this project uses historical sources, as well as evidence from recent field work and interviews, to study several modelling practices in twentieth-century geosciences aimed at informing risk-assessment processes (i.e. the implementation of flood control strategies, volcanic and seismic prevention plans, climate change policies). The project will show that, beyond similarity (or the mere copying of nature) and reduction (or the mere omission of complexities), modelling practices incorporate and standardize a variety of creative cognitive resources.