Model building and dynamics
Models play a crucial role in all branches of science and are indispensable in dealing with complex phenomena. This project investigates the pivotal role of models in today’s elementary particle physics in the light of recent philosophical debates that have emphasized the autonomous contributions of models to scientific explanations, including their role in mediating between the various levels of theorizing and data. Whereas, in particle physics models also play an important role in gathering and reconstructing experimental data, such as in data acquisition, the present project focuses on the model landscape of the Standard Model (SM) and the searches for physics beyond it (BSM). After the discovery of the final missing piece in the confirmation of the SM, the Higgs boson, these searches have become the centrepiece of today’s particle physics and the LHC. The project combines empirical methods—among them a classification of the models prevailing within the community, a series of expert interviews, and a broadly spread questionnaire—with philosophical analyses of the models’ conceptual structure and the motives of scientific actors adopting them. It will deepen the philosophical understanding of models in general by a thorough analysis of their historical dynamics in a rapidly changing research field, the motivations of (and constraints on) model building, and the conditions of application within a single scientific domain that is rich and diverse enough to encompass most philosophical aspects of models and is shaped by the practices of a variegated international community of experimentalists and theoreticians.