Person Details

Scientific Advisory Board
Sabina Leonelli
University of Exeter

I moved from Italy to London in 1997, to undertake a BSc course in History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science at the STS Department of University College London. Thanks to my great teachers, those three years had a crucial influence on my intellectual development. I then earned an MSc in History and Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics and I worked as a research assistant to Hasok Chang in the 'Measurement' project at the Centre for the Philosophy of Natural and Social Science. I carried out my doctoral research in the Netherlands as part of the project ‘Understanding Scientific Understanding’ based at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, with Henk de Regt and Hans Radder. Between 2002 to 2007, I founded and served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Graduate Journal of Social Science and I followed the training provided by the WTMC (Netherlands Graduate School for Science, Technology and Modern Culture) and the Flemish-Dutch Graduate Network for the philosophy of science. Before landing in Exeter in 2008, I worked as a research officer in the Leverhulme/ESRC project ‘How Well Do ‘Facts’ Travel?’ based at the Department of Economic History of the London School of Economics and led by Mary Morgan.

I have been funded by several public and private bodies, including the European Research Council (Starting and Consolidator awards), the ESRC, the British Academy, the Alan Turing Institute, the EPSRC and the Leverhulme Trust, to carry out a variety of projects in the history, philosophy and social studies of science - especially biology, biomedicine and data science. Details of current projects, publications and other resources (including media, blogs and videos of lectures) are available here. I am a fellow of the Academie Internationale de Philosophie de la Science, the Academia Europaea and the Royal Society of Biology. 

Aside from my main scholarly activities as a philosopher and historian of science, I have a strong interest in science policy and governance, inspired by my scholarly work on the epistemic, social and ethical dimensions of automation and data-intensive research. I have authored several policy reports, including one on the impact of big data on biomedicine for the Swiss government in 2017, one on Global Access to Research Software for the Global Young Academy in 2018, and three reports for the European Commission Mutual Learning Exercise "Open Science: Incentives and Rewards" in 2017 and 2018; and one for the Thinkers Programme of the Belgian Academy of Science in 2022. From 2012 to 2017 I was a member of the Global Young Academy, leading on their Open Science activities; from 2016 to 2020 I was a member of the Open Science Policy Platform of the European Commission.

I am Editor-in-Chief of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, for which I also served as Associate Editor from 2013 to 2018. I serve on the executive boards of the Society for the Philosophy of Science in Practice, the PhilSci-Archive (the open access archive for philosophy of science), the plant community GARNet and the journals Science, Technology and Human Values; The Reasoner; Big Data and Society; Social Epistemology; Data and Medicina e Storia. From 2013 to 2017 I served on the steering committee of the European Philosophy of Science Association (EPSA), as the Senior Co-Chair of the EPSA Women's Caucus (2015-2019), and EPSA VicePresident (2019-2023). Further, I am involved in the co-ordination of the UK Network for Integrated History and Philosophy of Science (meeting annually), the European Advanced Seminar in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences (meeting biannually) and the network for the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Plant Science in the UK.

In the past, I have coordinated the postgraduate teaching in SPA and have served as diversity and inclusivity officer for the department. At the undergraduate level, I have offered an 'experimental' course to third-year philosophy students, in which they got to do original research and produce professional papers (the best outputs are published on the digital platform Pragmatism Tomorrow). I continue to teach classes at MA level, including a module on Data Ethics and Governance as well as a long-running module on Cultures of the Life Sciences.

I am a member of the Philosophy of Science Association, the European Philosophy of Science Association, the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology, the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Biology and the Society for the Philosophy of Information. I frequently serve as a referee for several journals in the philosophy, history and social studies of science, as well as funding bodies from the UK, EU, USA, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium. I aim to referee at least one paper every month, though I frequently referee more.