13-20 March 2022
International Spring School on the
Philosophy, History and Sociology of Particle Physics

The History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Large Physics Experiments


Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Large Physics Experiments

Large experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observer (LIGO), and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) play an essential role at the frontiers of contemporary fundamental physics. These experiments employ big research facilities, they probe nature at vast energy and length scales, they produce immense amounts of data, and they involve great numbers of researchers. We will discuss questions such as those arising from the history and philosophy of fundamental physics, the methodological challenges of big data, and the history and sociology of large research collaborations.


 poster for download




Confirmed Speakers (more to be added)


Arianna Borrelli, TU Berlin (Philosophy/History) | web

Laura Covi, Universität Göttingen (Physics) | web

Katharina C. Cramer, Universität Bonn (Political Science/History)  | web

Richard Dawid, Stockholm University (Philosophy) | web

Gregor Kasieczka, Universität Hamburg (Physics) | web

David Wallace, University of Pittsburgh (Philosophy) | web

Adrian Wüthrich, TU Berlin (Philosophy/History) | web

Christian Zeitnitz, BU Wuppertal (Physics) | web




Practical Information and Location Details

The ongoing pandemic will be monitored carefully. But we are optimistic that the Spring School will take place as planned in Wuppertal. The spring school will not be moved online.

The school will feature a number of morning and evening lectures by distinguished members from each of the respective fields (see above). Additionally, there will be working groups in the afternoon that cover selected topics from particle physics. A selection of participants will also get a chance to present their own work. 

The cost of participation will be € 450 and include full board and lodging. The school will be held

The school venue is located on top of a hill in a central area of Wuppertal, near a large park (the "Hardt") and Wuppertal's botanical garden. It is sufficiently secluded to ensure a calm and quiet atmosphere but central enough to get to and fro fast.


The venue can be reached directly by bus no. 643 from Wuppertal main station and is proximate to the exit “Wuppertal-Elberfeld” on expressway 46. The closest airports are Düsseldorf (approx. 50 km / 30 miles or 1 hour and 10 minutes’ train ride) and Cologne/Bonn (approx. 70 km / 40 miles or 1.5 hours’ train ride).




Call for Participation

We invite up to 30 graduate students and early career researchers from history, philosophy, sociology, and physics. The application process will be competitive and participants will be selected according to qualification and research focus. 

To apply, please send the following material in a single pdf file to springschool[at]uni-wuppertal.de:

  • a letter of motivation,
  • a cv.


Moreover, a selection of students will be able to give presentations of their own work as part of the school. The presentations will be followed by a short commentary from a professional researcher and a discussion with other students.

In case you intend to give a presentation, you will be required to provide in addition:

  • the title of your talk,
  • a short abstract, between 300 and 500 words (pdf).


The research unit is strongly committed to creating equal opportunities. In case of equal qualification, preference will be given to underrepresented groups.

We are organizing on-site child care. Please indicate in your application if you intend to bring your child or children.

We offer a small number of stipends to students with limited funding opportunities.  To apply for a stipend, please also prepare and submit a letter (pdf) no longer than one page, explaining your financial situation.

The deadline for application is 19 December 2021.





Download Schedule




Working Groups


1 - Material Cultures of Large Physics Experiments.

Detectors, interferometers, telescopes, laser and proton beams, software programs, institutes, laboratories, caverns, and control rooms comprise, among other things, the material culture of large-scale experiments in physics and astronomy. How do these instruments and infrastructures interact with and sustain theoretical developments and experimental research practices? How are they intertwined with industry and science policy? How is the experimental apparatus designed and evaluated? This working group integrates historical, philosophical, and STS approaches to material cultures of large physics experiments. We will analyze the non-propositional, infrastructural, social, and organizational conditions of experimentation by discussing texts from different scholarly perspectives, qualitative interviews with physicists involved in large-scale experiments, and policy documents, thus bringing forth and contrasting different methodological approaches to studying large physics experiments.


2 - Computational Methods in (Big) Data Generation, Analysis, and Interpretation.

This Working Group will investigate the role of computational methods – specifically: Computer Simulations and Machine Learning techniques – in the generation, analysis, and interpretation of big data. Given the background of the entire school, there will be a slight focus on HEP, but we will also look into philosophical theses developed in the context of climate research, or more general philosophical papers. Two sessions will concern the epistemic role of simulations in big data science and their (in)dispensability in HEP, respectively. Two further sessions will be dedicated to Machine Learning basics, and to the question of Machine Learning’s epistemic impact on data-heavy research, including questions of discovery and explanation, respectively.


3 - Large Experiments and the Roles of Theories.

In this working group we will explore the various roles of theory in the justification, design, performance, and development of large experiments. What kinds of theoretical considerations and heuristics do and should motivate large experiments? Are large experiments able to motivate and shape new heuristics? To what degree do large experiments embody theoretical presuppositions that guide their design? Should there be space for exploratory and theory-independent modes of experimentation in large experiments? Should large experiments have the potential to surprise us


4 - Scientific Ideals and Values in Large Experiments.

 In this working group, we will discuss how ideals and values influence scientific research and the development of knowledge and understanding. We will start by working out what values and ideals are found in science, how they differ between different branches of big science, and what roles they play. In doing so, we will examine, among other things, the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic scientific ideals. We will also focus on the ideal of so-called ``value-free science'' and questions of its merits and problems as well as about whether it is even possible in practice let alone desirable. Finally, we will cover the relation of this ideal to issues of technocracy, a form of government which bases decisions on supposedly value-neutral scientific and technical knowledge.



Earlier Editions

The summer school is the fourth in a row of successful schools on the philosophy of particle physics, broadly construed. Its predecessors, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd International Spring School on Particle Physics and Philosophy, were hosted in Wuppertal in 2011, 2014, and 2018 respectively, and each supported by the IZWT and the BU Wuppertal.



Organization & Contact

For further information you can contact the organizers, Radin Dardashti and Enno Fischer (both BU Wuppertal), at springschool@uni-wuppertal.de