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Honour for Studying the Scientists

31 July 2012

Image of Professor Harry Collins

Professor Harry Collins made Fellow of British Academy

Professor Harry Collins has been made a Fellow of the British Academy for his role in establishing the sociological study of science.

Professor Collins is Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Knowledge, Expertise and Science. Fellows of the British Academy are highly distinguished academics, recognised for outstanding research in the social sciences and humanities.

Professor Collins’ research analyses the nature of science and knowledge in general. He has worked with many international scientists, particularly physicists, to gain a better understanding of how they seek knowledge. His 16 books include studies of the nature of Artificial Intelligence and the scientific quest for gravitational waves – extremely weak cosmic events which are predicted by Einstein’s theory. He is also planning a new book on the relationship between science and science policy.

Keenly interested in sport, Professor Collins has also published analysis of Hawkeye, the line and lbw judge used in tennis and cricket. He questions how the technology can be as accurate as claimed – an issue cricket has now taken into consideration.

Professor Collins’s most recent work includes the Imitation Game, a way of exploring how far minority groups are integrated into societies. A judge from a minority group asks a series of online questions to two unseen strangers. One is from the same group, the other from the majority. Both try to answer the questions in a way that will convince the judge they are members of the minority group. Professor Collins has recently been travelling Europe testing the game in different societies, supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant.

Professor Collins said of his Fellowship: “I’m very pleased to be elected. The BA only appoints 38 new Fellows a year to a body of 900 covering all the humanities and social sciences. I’m also pleased to see the sociology of science recognised in this way. I first became involved in studying scientists in 1971. The work I did early on helped to get the subject off the ground.”

The Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, Dr David Grant, said: “This is a well-deserved award for Professor Collins who has built up a fascinating body of work over his career. His work asks some profound questions about the very nature of scientific knowledge and the ways in which scientists make their discoveries.”

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy said: “The new Fellows who come from 23 institutions across the UK, have outstanding expertise across the board. Their presence in the Academy will help it to sustain its support for research across the humanities and social sciences, and to inspire public interest in these disciplines.”

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