Young researcher of the year - Jon Williamson, Reader in Philosophy

November 26, 2007

School of European Culture and Languages, Kent University. Last year, Jon Williamson set up the UK's first Centre for Reasoning with the aim of taking the growing interdisciplinary interest in reasoning to a new level.

More and more academics in a broad range of disciplines are studying and researching reasoning, but they are not sharing their findings. Williamson hopes to change this situation through the centre. "Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that researchers in any one of these areas are unaware of relevant research that is going on in the other areas," the 35-year-old told The Times Higher in a recent interview.

His research has practical and direct influences in the social and health sciences. He is currently working with oncologists at University College London and Cancer Research UK to improve cancer care by applying objective Bayesianism. The idea is that probabilities such as recurrence of a patient's cancer and the probability that an individual will respond to treatment must be considered in treatment decisions.

Williamson attracts a level of funding - more than £184,000 in the past two years - that is almost unheard of in his discipline.

He was recently promoted from lecturer to reader in philosophy at Kent University. His four main areas of interest are the philosophy of causality, the foundations of probability, logics and reasoning and the use of causality, probability and logics in artificial intelligence, science and mathematics.

One of the award's judges, Philip Esler, chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: "Jon Williamson's cutting-edge philosophical research offers penetrating new understandings of causation in complex systems that have direct applications in areas ranging from healthcare to engineering."

The other judge, Peter Atkins, fellow and professor of chemistry at Lincoln College, Oxford, added: "He shows a highly commendable vigour in propagating applications of philosophy and in establishing a journal and a research centre."

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