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  • Prof. Dr. Martin Carrier


    © Universität Bielefeld

Prof. Dr. Martin Carrier

Seniorprofessor für Wissenschaftsphilosophie

© Martin Carrier

Abteilung Philosophie
Universität Bielefeld
Postfach 100131
33501 Bielefeld

Sekretariat: Eike Inga Schilling
Tel: +49 (0) 521 106-6894
Fax: +49-521-106-156894

Prof. Dr. Martin Carrier


+49 521 106-4596
Gebäude X A4-246


  • 1955 Born in Lüdenscheid (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)
  • 1975 to 1981 Studies of physics, philosophy, and education at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
  • 1981 State Examination for a Gymnasium Teaching Position.
  • 1984 Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Münster. Thesis on Lakatos' Methodology and the History of Chemistry in the 18th Century.
  • Since 1984 Married to Gabriele Carrier, two sons
  • 1984 to 1989 Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Konstanz
  • 1989 Habilitation in philosophy at the University of Konstanz with Jürgen Mittelstraß. Thesis on the Relation between Theory and Evidence in Space-Time Theories.
  • 1989 to 1994 Akademischer Rat (tenured position) at the University of Konstanz.
  • 1994 to 1998 Full professor for philosophy at the University of Heidelberg.
  • Since 1998 Full professor for philosophy at Bielefeld University.
  • 2002 - 2009 Co-Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF)
  • Since 2008 Member of the University Council of Bielefeld University
  • 2008 - 2018 Member of the Selection Committee for Prizes and Awards of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, Vice President 2012 - 2014, President 2014 - 2018.
  • 2013 - 2019 Head of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (I²SoS)
  • Since 2016 Head of Division for Social Sciences and Humanities of the European Academy of Sciences
  • Since 2017 Member of the permanent advisory council of the Center for Science Studies of the German National Academy Leopoldina

Awards and Honors

  • Werner-Heisenberg Medal of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation 2018
  • Full Member of the Académie internationale de philosophie des sciences, since 2018
  • John-G.-Diefenbaker Award of the Canada Council for the Arts 2016
  • Blaise-Pascal Medal for Social Sciences and Humanities of the European Academy of Sciences 2015
  • Member of the European Academy of Sciences, since 2014
  • One-year research grant of the “Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald,” 2014/15.
  • Member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, since 2012 
  • Member of the “Academia Europaea/The Academy of Europe” since 2010
  • Leibniz Prize of theDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft(DFG) for 2008
  • One-year research grant of theDFG: “Science under the Pressure of Practice,” co-director of a ZiF resarch group on the same topic, 2006/07
  • Member of the Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz, since 2003
  • Member of the German Academy of Scientists Leopoldina (National Academy), since 2000


Institutional Positions

  • Since 2017      Member of the permanent advisory council of the Center for Science Studies of the German National Academy Leopoldina
  • Since 2016      Head of Division for Social Sciences and Humanities of the European Academy of  Sciences
  • 2013 – 2019    Head of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (I2SoS) 
  • 2008 – 2018    Member of the Selection Committee for Prizes and Awards of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, Vice-President 2012 – 2014, President 2014 – 2018.
  • Since 2008      Member of the University Council of Bielefeld University
  • 2002 – 2009    Co-Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF)


  • Leopoldina - Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften
  • Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur Mainz
  • Academia Europaea - The Academy of Europe
  • Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaft
  • European Academy of Sciences
  • Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences


  • 2016-2017  Diefenbaker Award and One-year Research Fellowship at the University of Toronto (awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts)
  • 2014 – 2015  One-year Senior Research Fellowship at the Krupp-Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald (awarded by the Alfried-Krupp Foundation)
  • 2011 – 2012  One-semester fellowship at the Institut d’études avancées Paris, France
  • 2010 – 2011  One-semester fellowship at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science Berlin
  • 2012, 2014    Five months research stay at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Haifa
  • 2009              Research stay in the Fall semester at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
  • 2006 – 2007  Co-director of a one-year ZiF Research Group on Science in the Context of Application
  • 2006 – 2007  One-year DFG Research Fellowship for a Project on Science in the Context of Application
  • 1988              One-semester research grant at the Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

Active Research Grants

  • DFG research project “Research in the Context of Practice: Strategies for Making Application-Oriented Science Epistemically Sound and Practically Beneficial,” zwei Promotionsstellen, April 2019 – March 2022.
  • Obstacles to Comparison in the Natural Sciences and Ways to Overcome them: The Example of Molecular Genetics. The project is part of SFB 1204Praktiken des Vergleichens (Practices of Comparison) (together Carsten Reinhardt), eine Mitarbeiterstelle, Jan 2017 – Dec 2020.
  • Breaking Confines: Interdisciplinary Model-Building for a Complex World, M. Carrier, A. Gölzhäuser (ZiF Kooperationsgruppe, 2019-2021).
  • Doctoral Training School „Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research“(GRK 2073/1) (together with Torsten Wilholt), 2015 – 2024.

Research Profile

  • Science in the context of practice: science is subject to economic and political demands which affect the research agenda and the standards of confirmation.

In fundamental research epistemic interest and feasibility are major factors in selecting research problems. Research under the pressure of application proceeds according to economic prospects and practical urgency. Feasibility tends to be disregarded. This could have an impact of standards of confirmation since research overburdened by short-term practical goals might become superficial. On the other hand, practical problems have repeatedly posed fruitful challenges to research and have created incentives for producing novelties in fundamental science. The context of practice seems to have an ambivalent role at first sight. But what are the conditions which could engender epistemic decline or, conversely, prompt innovative responses?  

  • Heuristic strategies: what kinds of goals or incentives are suited to make research practically beneficial? (DFG Projekt)

The two major recipes for producing practically beneficial research is proceeding in a knowledge-driven or demand-driven way. The former approach amounts to producing knowledge without any practical goals in view and identifying only afterward useful applications to which the knowledge can be put. The latter approach recommends research directly on the practical problems placed on the agenda by society. There are successful examples for both strategies. The question is whether conditions can be identified that favor the prospects of either recipe.

  • Responsible research and innovation

Responsible research and innovation (RRI) has been at the focus of science studies in particular in Europe for quite some time. However, it brings philosophical challenges in its train that have not yet been attended widely. In particular, one of the items on the RRI to-do list is doing research “for society” or on behalf of society. This seems to require the anticipation of results of future research and their social impact. The usual assumption is that the future course of science is unpredictable, but this is not true in general. There are instances of successful planned research. What are factors that make pathways of science predictable or unpredictable, respectively, and are there ways for anticipating social consequences of innovations that are not yet existing? An approach for meeting the latter challenge is looking into the social context of an innovation. If a technology is introduced in an intransparent way by using asymmetric power relations, prima-facie evidence militates against the responsible character of the innovation. Such considerations can detach judgments about RRI from knowledge of the future course of a research field.

  • The public credibility of science and scientific policy advice

Research in socially relevant areas such as nutrition and health is suspected by parts of the public to be unreliable and to be biased by economic and political influences. What strategies are suited to restoring the public credibility of science in the social arena? Pluralism in research fields and among the social influences on science is certainly a factor that could avoid one-sidedness and thus promote credibility. However, pluralism is not a good basis for giving advice on practical questions. Which auxiliary factors can be used for curbing pluralism and for arriving at helpful scientific policy advice? One relevant strategy is relying on the common ground of various competing approaches or disregarding any suggestions that contradict prevalent value-attitudes in a society and thus do not stand a chance of realization anyway.  

  • Interdisciplinary model-building

Models in various branches of science exhibit topical and methodological similarities. Models can be generalized and form model templates that can be used to tackle a wide variety of problems. Examples are the Lotka-Volterra model or the Ising model. Together with a group of physical scientists and life scientists I seek to draw general lessons from comparing such approaches and to explore wthether such comparison and exchange can contribute to improve model-building.


Invited Lecture Series

  • Integrity and Responsibility in Science: Navigating through Conflicting Social and Epistemic Demands, Annual Meeting of the European Academy of Sciences, with Alain Tressaud and Rodrigo Martins, ZiF, Univ. Bielefeld, 18.-20.10.2018.
  • Anreiz, Kosten und Erkenntnisqualität: Wissenschaftsökonomie im Spannungsfeld von Ressourcenknappheit und epistemischer Ambition, mit Rolf König, ZiF, Univ. Bielefeld, 16.-18.11.2017.
  • Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): Coming to Grips with a Contentious Concept, with Rolf König and Peter Weingart, ZiF, Univ. Bielefeld, 30.3.-1.4.2017
  • Vienna International Summer University 2012: Applied Science: Historical, Epistemological, and Institutional Characteristics, Universität Wien, 2.7. – 13.7.2012 (with Rose-Mary Sargent & Peter Weingart).
  • Leibniz-Lectures, University of Hannover, Germany (in German): "Science under the Pressure of Practice: Epistemic Commitment, Credibility, Social Benefit," July 15-17, 2009 (see also below).
  • Workshop on my work: "Incommensurability between Scientific Theories," Journée de recherche on my work, Université de Nancy, France, March 11, 2003
  • Lecture Series, Università degli studi di Firenze, Italy, "Theory-ladenness and Empirical Test," March 29 -31, 2000.



Edited Books

Journal Articles

Book Chapters

Ph.D. Theses Supervised

  • Andreas Hüttemann, Idealisierungen und das Ziel der Physik (1996)
  • James L. Cook, Recursive Fitness (1997)
  • Jutta Rockmann, Wissenschaftlicher Realismus und Unterbestimmtheit (1999)
  • Jesse Kraai, Rheticus? Heliocentric Providence. A study concerning the astrology/astronomy of the sixteenth century (2001)
  • Patrick Finzer, Verstehen komplexer Systeme. Reduktionen in Biologie und Biomedizin (2002)  
  • Matthias Adam, Theoriebeladenheit und Objektivität. Zur Rolle von Beobachtungen in den Naturwissenschaften (2002
  • Torsten Wilholt, Zahl und Wirklichkeit: Eine philosophische Untersuchung über die Anwendbarkeit der Mathematik (2002)
  • Alexander Mäder, Falsche Überzeugungen verstehen: Begriffliche und methodische Überlegungen zur Erforschung der alltagspsychologischen Praxis (2003)
  • Michael Stöltzner, Vienna Indeterminism. Causality, Realism and the Two Strands of Boltzmann's Legacy (1896-1936) (2003)
  • Christian Schütte, Gesetze am Himmel. Die Astronomie der Frühen Neuzeit als Wegbereiterin moderner Naturwissenschaft (2006)
  • Cornelis Menke, Zum methodologischen Wert von Vorhersagen neuartiger Phänomene (2007)
  • Soazig Le Bihan, Understanding Quantum Phenomena (2008) (Cotutelle avec U. Nancy 2)
  • Sandro Gaycken, Technisches Wissen – Philosophische Untersuchungen (2008)
  • Tobias Knobloch, Quasi-Experimente. Zum Erkenntniswert von Gedankenexperimenten und Computersimulationen (2009)
  • Anna Leuschner, Die Glaubwürdigkeit der Wissenschaft (2011)
  • Anke Büter, Pluralismus statt Wertfreiheit: Soziale Erkenntnistheorie und das Beispiel der Frauengesundheitsforschung (2012)
  • Adele Gerdes, Die Selbstorganisation dynamischer Systeme. Whiteheads Beitrag zur Philosophie des Geistes (2013)
  • Fabian Lausen, Tragweite und Grenzen eines heuristischen Reduktionismus (2013)
  • David Willmes, Zur Legitimität ethischer und sozialer Werte in der Wissenschaft (2013)
  • Daniel Stephen Brooks, The Concept of Levels of Organization in Biology (2014)
  • Stephan Kopsieker, Modularität und Plastizität in biologischen Systemen. Eine mechanistische Perspektive (2016)


  • Andreas Hüttemann
  • Torsten Wilholt
  • Johannes Lenhard
  • Cornelis Menke
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