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The HPS Seminar Series

The HPS program at the University of Melbourne conducts a weekly seminar series each academic semester. Seminars vary across a broad range of topics and are presented by local and international scholars. Click below to subscribe to the seminar mailing list.

Seminars 2023

The schedule for the HPS Seminar Series in Semester 2 for 2023 is below, but is subject to change. If you wish to be notified of upcoming seminars, please subscribe to the HPS Seminar mailing list. If you have suggestions or requests for speakers, or any other questions contact

5:30 pm
Wednesday 4 October
online only

Agreeing to Disagree: Optimal model complexity in Sustainability Science


Alkistis Elliott-Graves (Bielefeld University)
The debate about the optimal level of model complexity is becoming increasingly important in many disciplines. In the first camp are those who argue that models should be simple so as to reduce the inherent complexity of systems, making them more tractable and generalizable. In the second camp are those who believe that models should incorporate complexity, so as to provide more accurate pictures of complex systems. Illustrating with examples from Sustainability Science (specifically from fisheries), I will show that scientists on both sides of the debate are frequently correct, in the sense that the cases they use to support their own position are valid and evidentially strong, as are the cases they use to point out weaknesses of the opposing position. Moreover, the scientists in each camp have a common goal, namely accurate predictions, hence this is an example of rational rational scientific disagreement, regarding how the goal of accurate prediction can best be achieved. Following Levins (1966) and Weisberg (2013) I will argue that accurate predictions cannot be achieved by either of the two types of models alone, but that a pluralistic approach with model ensembles is needed. This conclusion is relevant beyond the academic debate, as it has implications for policy-makers and other stakeholders.

12 noon
Wednesday 11 October
Arts West North Wing 553 (Discursive Space)

The concept problem in the historiography of science 

John Wilkins (HPS, University of Melbourne)

In this talk I will discuss how we individuate concepts as terms in formal or informal languages, and how the imprecision of these terms both inhibits HPS and enables science. My own work on species concepts and definitions led me to reject the notion that such terms are theoretically determined all of the time, and that they are instead often worked out either in the absence of prior theory or as the theory. develops. I will present several cases in which this is to be found, based upon my recent paper "The Good Species" in Species Problems and Beyond (CRC Press 2022).

12 noon
Wednesday 18 October
Arts West North Wing
553 (Discursive Space)

Confirmation seminar

Zoe Cosker (HPS, University of Melbourne)


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