Paper 4

Collins, H. M., (1998) `The Meaning of Data: Open and Closed Evidential Cultures in the Search for Gravitational Waves’, American Journal of Sociology, 104, 2, 293-337.


Drawing of disagreeing stick figures with speech bubbles.

LSU on the one hand, and Frascati and Perth, on the other, disagreed about the interpretation of resonant bar data; Frascati and Perth were willing to publish delay histogram data earlier than LSU. The funding of LIGO is important as background to the disagreement. Delay histograms tie groups into a technically intimate relationship – because there are no findings at all, not even disputable findings, until the results of two separate bars have been combined (it will be same with GW cosmic background searches). In this case the bars were in different countries run by different national groups with different `evidential cultures’ and institutional backgrounds. These are explored. The solution adopted by LSU – compulsory blinding with 999 spurious starting points on a loop of data is discussed. Both sides’ evaluations of this procedure are set out. You can also read the full text of The Meaning of Data.

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