Julia Sánchez-Dorado is a philosopher and historian of science whose work explores how scientific models contribute to our understanding of complex phenomena in the world. Her research interests also include the problem of representation in science and art, the role of creativity, and the formation of standards in epistemic communities. 

Julia received her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from University College London in 2019, with a thesis entitled ‘Scientific representation in practice: Models and creative similarity’. Subsequently she became an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellow at the Technical University of Berlin, Institute of History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Literature (2020–22), and was also a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2020) and the University of Vienna (2022).

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.