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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Farmers' experiments and scientific methodology

Hansson ,Sven Ove


Farmers all over the world perform experiments, and have done so since long before modern experimental science and its recognized forerunners. There is a rich anthropological literature on these experiments, but the philosophical issues that they give rise to have not received much attention. Based on the anthropological literature, this study investigates methodological and philosophical issues pertaining to farmers' experiments, including the choice of interventions (work methods etc.) to be tested, the planning of experiments, and the use of control fields and other means to deal with confounding factors. Farmers' experiments have some advantages over the field trials of agricultural scientists (more replications, studies performed under the relevant local conditions), but also some comparative disadvantages (less stringent controls, less precise evaluations). The two experimental traditions are complementary, and neither of them can replace the other. Several aspects of farmers' experiments are shown to have a direct bearing on central topics in the philosophy of science.


Farmer's experiment; Agriculture; Field trial; Experimental control; Confounding factor; Hypothesis formation; Indigenous knowledge

Published in

European Journal for Philosophy of Science
2019, Volume: 9, number: 3, article number: 32
Publisher: SPRINGER

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