Summer School on Foundations in Quantitative Palaeontology

September 14-18, 2020 online via Zoom. The school is free of charge.

The school will present perspectives from palaeontology, data science and philosophy of science on how knowledge can be derived from data in palaeontology, and what makes or does not make computational approaches conclusive.

Applications are now closed. We received 68 applications. Acceptance notifications have been sent. Welcome!

Main perspectives

  • Palaeontology: the nature and structure of fossil data, challenges and opportunities

  • Philosophy of science: how palaeontologists justify their claims

  • Data science: from knowledge to data to knowledge, no free lunch theorem


(See your acceptance e-mail for Zoom link)

  • Sep 14: A philosopher looks at palaeontology (Adrian Currie) slides

      • Optional pre-reading (if you can't access please e-mail to Adrian for copies

        • Cleland, C. E. (2002). Methodological and epistemic differences between historical science and experimental science. Philosophy of Science, 69(3), 447-451.

        • Turner, D. (2009). Beyond detective work: Empirical testing in paleontology. The paleobiological revolution: Essays on the growth of modern paleontology, 568.

        • Currie, A., & Sterelny, K. (2017). In defence of story-telling. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 62, 14-21.

        • Wylie, A. (1999). Rethinking unity as a “working hypothesis” for philosophy of science: How archaeologists exploit the disunities of science. Perspectives on Science, 7(3), 293-317.

        • Currie, A. (2019). Part 1: "History and Evidence", from Scientific knowledge and the deep past: history matters. Cambridge University Press.

  • Sep 15: The nature of data and measurements (Indrė Žliobaitė) slides + Panel discussion on how we do research (All lecturers + Juha Saarinen)

  • Sep 16: No free lunch in computational modelling (Aki Vehtari) slides

  • Sep 17: Tree-thinking in palaeontology (Pasquale Raia) slides

  • Sep 18: From fossil data to interpretations (Tyler Faith) slides


At 14:00-17:00 UTC. This time is selected to accommodate students from different places globally, the timing of live sessions will be every day at:

  • 8:00-11:00 in Utah

  • 10:00-13:00 in New York

  • 15:00-18:00 in the UK

  • 16:00-19:00 in Italy

  • 17:00-20:00 in Finland, Kenya

(Sorry China, Australia and other lands for unfortunate timing. You are most welcome to join if you can).


Five 3-hour lectures and discussions online via Zoom. No participation fees.

For logistics reasons the school can take maximum 50 participants. Priority will be given to students and early postdocs. Application deadline: August 30, 2020. Applications are now closed.

The school cannot give formal study credits, but can provide informal certificates of completion if a student participates in all five classes and submits an essay.


  • Adrian Currie, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Exeter, UK

  • Tyler Faith, Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of Utah, USA

  • Pasquale Raia, Associate Professor in Palaeontology, University of Naples, Italy

  • Aki Vehtari, Associate Professor in Computational Probabilistic Modeling, Aalto University, Finland

  • Indrė Žliobaitė, Assistant Professor in Life Science Informatics, University of Helsinki, Finland

For any further questions contact: indre.zliobaite @