About

I am a philosopher of neuroscience with training in history and philosophy of science and neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario (Western) and Associate Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at Western’s Rotman Institute of Philosophy (https://www.rotman.uwo.ca). I am also Principal Investigator of the Rotman Institute’s Philosophy of Neuroscience and Psychiatry in Practice Research Group (https://pnpprg.wordpress.com) and am an associate member of Western’s Institute for Neuroscience (WIN). Much of my work involves collaboration with scientists, and I am fortunate to have an ongoing collaboration with members of the Translational Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory (https://tcnlab.ca/our-team/) at Western. In fact, the team and I are currently looking to fill a Postdoctoral Position to engage in collaborative empirical work on open science! Please ask me about the position!

A primary aim of the philosophy of neuroscience, which is the main focus of my research, is to understand how neuroscience works. One goal of my research is to develop and refine a conceptual framework for evaluating experiments and understanding the nature of different kinds of practices (e.g., collaborative, conceptual, integrative, methodological, open science) in the neurosciences of cognition (e.g., Sullivan 2008/2009, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018; Mattu & Sullivan 2020; Sullivan 2020; Sullivan, Dumont, Memar, et al. 2020) and determining the implications of these practices for knowledge production in these areas of science. 

I am currently funded through a SSHRC Grant for my project “The Philosophy of Neuroscience in Practice”. A common strategy in philosophy of neuroscience for understanding how neuroscience works is to evaluate methodological and review papers and research studies to develop such understanding. However, this approach sheds little light on the intricate inner workings of the science that occur in the contexts of laboratories, lab meetings, journal clubs, and informal conversations between primary investigators, postdoctoral fellows, and science students working within the same lab or working with researchers in other laboratories.The overarching aim of my project is to illuminate these foundational activities from the perspective of a participant-observer and collaborator in a cutting-edge translational cognitive neuroscience laboratory at Western University. This project also is informed by my first-person experiences working for 2.5 years in a neurobiology laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh (2001-2003) — an experience that intimately informs and shapes all of my philosophical work. This project in fact continues and extends my previous philosophical work on experimentation (e.g., Sullivan 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2022), classification and natural kinds (e.g., Sullivan 2014, 2016, 2017, Mattu and Sullivan 2020), mental illness (e.g., Kincaid & Sullivan 2009, 2014; Sullivan 2016) and pluralism and unity of science (e.g., Sullivan 2009, 2016, 2017, 2021), which historically has focused on the neurosciences of cognition and translational neuroscientific research in psychiatry (See publication list for references).

More information about the project is available here: https://www.rotman.uwo.ca/research/projects/philosophy-neuroscience-practice/

(Sullivan 2008/2009 Synthese)