Society relies on knowledge to face its greatest challenges and identify opportunities for progress. Scientific consensus guides our perception of an unfolding physical, biological and social universe and suggests improvements for the human condition. Likewise humanistic and spiritual certainties inspire us to action and help us discover purpose and imagine better ways of being. Nevertheless, overconfidence in contemporary knowledge can limit us. Consensus can be premature and certainties out of sync with changing realities. Established agreement narrows questions considered and strategies pursued. Knowledge does not arise from simple accumulation of facts. Rather, it is a complex, dynamic system, and its emergent outcomes – including scientific consensus – are unpredictable. The complexity of knowledge creation has exploded with the growing number of participating scientists and citizens. If human knowledge is to grow efficiently, we need a deeper understanding of the processes by which knowledge is conceived, validated, shared and reinforced. We need to understand the limits of knowledge in relation to these processes. We need knowledge about knowledge. Indeed, scientists and scholars have begun to investigate such questions in disparate settings, under the names “meta-analysis,” “meta-research,” “the science of science” and “science studies.” We propose a research network for the study of knowledge about knowledge or “metaknowledge” that brings together these programs and develops tools and methods to catalyze a new field devoted to understanding the current shape and limits of human understanding. The network will explore how human knowledge emerges, thrives, evolves, gets replicated or refuted, and dies out. We believe that by discovering the processes that shape knowledge creation across diverse fields, we can accelerate it, and that by unearthing the nature and source of the limits of human understanding, we can see past them to the Big Questions beyond.
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