Research and teaching

My research in the recent past (2005–2022) is summarized on this page.


Main focus: I’m working on a book on philosophical issues in microbiome research. It’s still in progress and should be out in 2023 with Harvard University Press. Topics include: host-microbiome individuality, phylosymbiosis and other evolutionary patterns, the nature of microbiomes, microbiome causality in hosts, microbiomes and health, microbiome research and traditional microbiology, and some general thoughts on philosophy of microbiome research.

A side project: With Daniela Helbig (also here in HPS Sydney), I’m investigating the life of Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider. She was a student of Einstein, and a neo-Kantian philosopher of science who came to Sydney as a refugee when WW2 broke out. As well as getting the history and philosophy of science started in Sydney, she was a major player in an outreach programme to regional towns focused on new scientific developments and philosophy of science. But most generally, she represents an era in which major shifts in philosophy of science were occurring – changes that helped make her views and even life story disappear. We’ve got a basic overview of her life coming out in Historical Records of Australian Science, and have future plans for further investigations of her work and how it fits the intellectual landscape of the time.

Another side project: With Kate Lynch (Sydney) and Sam Baron (ACU), we’re looking into what explanation and particularly ‘explainability’ means in the context of machine learning algorithms. These models — usually quite opaque in how they work — can have significant impacts for individuals in health, justice, welfare and online media systems. This means lots of questions arise when demands are made for such models to be interpretable or explainable.