Foreword: Mathematical modelling as a critical cultural enterprise

Wendy Nelson Espeland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


A few years ago, I was asked to participate in writing a comment for Nature about the uses and abuses of modelling.12 My contributions were meagre, but I was happy to add my name to a list of scholars and practitioners calling for measures to make modelling more socially useful and ethical. The comment took the form of a manifesto, which, according to the dictionaries I checked, is a public pronouncement or declaration that explains or advocates for some vision or policy by a particular group that could be political, artistic, part of a social movement, a school of thought, or anyone wishing to assert a position they consider of public value in an accessible way.3 A long-winded but plausible definition. No doubt the most famous manifesto is Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ ‘The Manifesto for the Communist Party’, written at the behest of the Party and published in 1848. Perhaps not quite as generative (or famous) as that manifesto, the Nature comment, ‘Five Ways to Ensure that Models Serve Society: A Manifesto’, was, nonetheless, an effort to provoke, to change policy, and to offer something of value. It, too, is imbued with a spirit of critique, interrogating the power dimensions of knowledge, and aiming to improve the world. It is also a call to arms. And the critical spirit that informs the manifesto is carried forward in this timely and important book.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe politics of modelling
Subtitle of host publicationNumbers between science and policy
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191983597
ISBN (Print)9780198872412
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


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