Consensus and Scientific Classification

Beckett Sterner, Atriya Sen, Joeri Witteveen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Consensus about a classification is defined as agreement on a set of classes (concepts or categories) and their relations (such as generic relations and whole-part relations) for us in forming beliefs. While most research on scientific consensus has focused on consensus about a belief as a mark of truth, we highlight the importance of consensus in justifying shared classificatory language. What sort of consensus, if any, is the best basis for communi-cating and reasoning with scientific classifications? We describe an often-overlooked coordinative role for consensus that leverage agreement on how to disagree such that actors involved can still achieve one or more shared aims even when they do not agree on shared beliefs or categories. Looking forward, we suggest that investigating structures and methods for coordinative consensus provides an important new direction for research on the epistemic foundations of knowledge organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-256
Number of pages21
JournalKnowledge Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • authorities
  • classification structure
  • scientific consensus
  • taxonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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