SPSP 2013 Contributed Papers: Communities & Institutions: Objectivity, Equality, & Trust

SPSP 2013 Contributed Papers: Communities & Institutions: Objectivity, Equality, & Trust

Tweeted from the 4th biennial conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on June 28, 2013, during Concurrent Sessions VI

  1. This was a session, by the way, in which it was necessary to confront my limitations as a conference live-tweeter. The session was in a room where the only available electrical outlets were at the front (where the speakers were), and my battery was rapidly running out of juice.  And my right shoulder was seizing up.  And I ended up in Twitter Jail (for "too many tweets today!" per Twitter's proprietary algorithm), which meant that the last chunk of tweets I composed for the second talk got pasted into a text file and tweeted hours later, while my notes for the third talk in the session went into my quad-ruled notebook.

    With multiple live-tweeters in a given session, this trifecta of fail (in my tweeting -- the session papers were a trifecta of good stuff!) would have been less traumatic for me.  But philosophers are not quite as keen to live-tweet as, say, ScienceOnline attendees ... yet.
    There was, however, a bit of backup!  Christine James was driving SPSP's shiny new Twitter account,   SocPhilSciPract, and she happened choose the same session of contributed papers to attend and to tweet.  She also tweeted some pictures.
  2. Session on "Communities & Institutions: Objectivity, Equality, and Trust" #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  3. First, Heidi Grasswick, "Trustworthiness of Scientific Institutions: Implications of Situated Knowing" #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  4. Situated Knowing: social location can matter to what you know & how; all knowledge 'situated" (partial, limited) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  5. How r differently situated knowers able 2 know responsibly; diff soc locations may affect how much trust of inst #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  6. Responsible trust of science required trustworthiness of science insitutions #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  7. What makes an institution trustworthy? How do we get evidence that they're working well? #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  8. Reasoning about when & how to trust; needs to be some weight of evidence for trustworthiness of sci institution #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  9. To trust = to have certain expectations. To be trustworthy = to be capable of/likely to make good on expectation #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  10. Lay expectations of scientific institutions (as providers of significant knowledge): make reliable knowledge #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  11. ... share/filter it, develop technologies that shape our lives, etc, #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  12. Scientific institutions as producing SIGNIFICANT knowledge (asking sig Qs, finding sig As). Significant to whom? #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  13. If scientific institution doesn't take up significant Qs, or answer them, or transmit As, etc., ... #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  14. Objectivity as rationality grounding trust (Naomi Scheman, 2001) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  15. We are epistemically dependent on others (why we need trust)/marginalized folks can have rational distrust of sci #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  16. History can provide one ground for rational distrust of scientific institutions #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  17. Ethical failings thus can undercut epistemic role of scientific institutions #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  18. Ignorance often NOT benign gaps in knowledge, but actively produced & maintained by politically dominant #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  19. What counts as relevant knowledge has depended on political dominance and subordination #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  20. If responsible distrust tracks marginalized groups, this is a form of epistemic injustice #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  21. Grasswick discussing case study of trust of institutions: Native American, Arizona State #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  22. Havasupai case (blood samples donated 2 study diabetes; subsequently used for other projects w/out their consent) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  23. Havasupai study at Arizona State, case study: blood samples used in other studies without permission #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  24. Distrust of genetics hit all-time high w/ most Native American groups in aftermath #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  25. Failure to provide significant knowledge (how exactly samples were to be used) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  26. Acknowledging situated knowledge and situated distrust - conditions of responsible trust for scientists required #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  27. Reasons to worry: 1) Trust req'd for research going forward (local mistakes can lead to large scale erosion) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  28. 2)Trust necessary for knowledge use & uptake (bare trust risks exposure) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  29. 3) Grounding trust across locations (earning trust); 4) epistemic injustice concerns #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  30. General problem w/consent forms: what do I look for to exercise rational trust? Hard for lay people to tell #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  31. However, fragility of trust moreso among marginalized groups (less reason to believe won't be used, hurt) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  32. Q: how to locate the epistemic injustice of distrust? Trustworthiness side has deficit #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  33. Q: is trust connected to interests of potential trusters? Knowledge that threatens your current beliefs... #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  34. Researchers trying to build new knowledge out of old samples (not to do harm) ... but intent isn't magic! #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  35. Boaz Miller discussing knowledge generation and epistemic equality #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013 pic.twitter.com/AkFpGm6rFF
  36. Acquire many beliefs from testimony of others, including experts, & from social institutions (e.g. science) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  37. generation of knowledge depends on an apt division of cognitive labour among researchers #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  38. depends on the existence of justified relations of trust among them #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  39. hypotheses must undergo a social process of critical scrutiny and evaluation #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  40. Unequal power relations may obstruct the generation of knowledge #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  41. Top-down and bottom-up approaches to epistemology, Miller argues for bottom-up #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  42. Epistemic equality is designed to aid the smooth and successful generation of knowledge #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  43. concerned with epistemic equality in the context of justification; addressing a distributive problem. #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  44. Participation/influence over knowledge-generating discourse as limited good #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  45. needs to be justly distributed among putative members of an epistemic community. #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  46. How may epistemic equality be characterized as a model of distributive justice? #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  47. Different spheres ruled by diff criteria of distributive justice #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  48. In epistemic equality, only relevant expertise should matter as far as participation in epistemic community #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  49. Prob w/top-down approaches: hard to identify relevant experts; need meta-experts #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  50. Social privileges, decide when alleged experts are wrong, "experts" vetting "experts" Expertise as social status #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  51. Seem to be out of Twitter Jail now. Will resume with tweets I kept in text file ... #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  52. Examining credentials as way to ID experts? Leads to underrepresentation in community of experts #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  53. … if that underrepresentation exists in educational institutions #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  54. Also undervaluing of expertise from experience (sheep farmers, beekeepers) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  55. Expertise not just cognitive status but also a social status #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  56. Being an expert give you certain social privileges (e.g., getting to decide when other experts are wrong) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  57. Social status affects who is listened to, who is considered an "expert" #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  58. Socially diverse expert community 4 sake of diversity/tempered equality of intellectual equality is color-blind #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  59. No guarantee that experts' contributions will be positive, useful. Experts sometimes misuse their power #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  60. Bottom-up approach: get active participation of members of disempowered group w/ seemingly relevant interests #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  61. Make discourse as diverse as possible rather than gatekeeping for expertise #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  62. All accredited experts w/relevant expertise equally participate (regardless of prestige, status of institution) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  63. Advantages of bottom-up approach: epistemic equality recognized as a political ideal #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  64. Primary aim is to smooth generation of relaible knowledge, though … #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  65. Epistemic aim realize b/c more diverse discourse, higher chance of reaching the truth #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  66. Higher chance that reaching the truth wasn't just accidental (rather, have considered, ruled out alternatives) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  67. Objections? Impracticality (hard for disempowered group to converse w/experts) #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  68. Not a cognitive problem! And research shows public CAN acquire this ability #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  69. Institutional affiliation at most weak proxy for expertise; entrenches existing power disparities #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  70. @docfreeride asking Boaz Miller about vaccine hesitancy and authority in science, bottom-up approach negative #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  71. The right to equally participate in science discussion, without guarantee the bottom-up view will become accepted #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  72. Question: how to enforce procedural rules for participatory science discussions #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  73. 1 more talk in that session needs transcription 2 tweets. Twitter jail, battery down, shoulder spasm ... #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  74. ... means I couldn't Tweet it in real-time. Will try tomorrow! #SPSP2013 #SPSP2013Toronto
  75. Luckily (as you will have noticed) I was not the only one tweeting this session!
  76. Saana Jukola, Longino and Objective Communities, and Case Study on SSRIs pic.twitter.com/R9356Hit3k
  77. Longino, objectivity of scientific method vs. individual attitudes and practices #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  78. The relevant citation here is Chapter 4 ("Values and Objectivity") in Helen E. Longino, Science as Social Knowledge, Princeton University Press, 1990.

    The big idea is that scientific knowledge becomes more objective by way of intersubjective engagement between the knowledge-builders.
  79. Value-freedom not desireable or attainable, subjecting evidence, reasoning and results to critique #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  80. Longino 1990: venues, response to criticism, shared standards, tempered equality of intellectual authority #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  81. Governance over spheres - "health" sphere not influenced by economic influence #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  82. Criteria that are problematic for diversity and objectivity Biddle 2007, Leuschner 2012, Smith 2004 #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  83. In particular, the worries are that Longino's criteria for objective communities might be:

    -too universal
    -too vague
    Saana Jukola also worried that the criteria might permit practices that threaten the diversity of the community that Longino sees as necessary for objectivity
  84. Conflicts of interest in research, financial, professional, or the way she or he evaluates different claims #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  85. Not only might individuals in the epistemic community have conflicts of interest relevant to their research, but there are empirical studies that suggest that these COIs can bias an individual's evaluation of claims even if that individual is consciously pursuing neutrality.

    This seems like a place for a diverse epistemic community to do some useful work in counteracting the bias.  However ...
  86. What about situations where the individual biases within a community are all pretty similar?

    M. Carrier (2012) asks whether COIs could promote objectivity by increasing the diversity of competing viewpoints within a research community.  Not if the "competitors" within this community have a significant overlapping set of shared interests.
    Which brings us to research on SSRIs, which is very commercialized.  There are indications that the data on efficacy that are published and those that are unpublished would lead to quite different "knowledge" about SSRIs.  Ferguson et al. (2005) claim that studies on SSRIs have suffered from methodological flaws.  D. Healy (2002) argues that individual biases shared widely by researchers within the field caused possible problems with SSRIs (at least as products for treating patients) to go unnoticed.
  87. Do Longino's criteria for objective communities detect the main problems in SSRI research?

    *The diversity of the field (at least with respect to possible bias in favor of safety and efficacy of SSRIs) was limited because of the funding structure.  With this limited diversity, the social backup system that's supposed to help screen out bias didn't function properly.
    *But, the criteria don't detect that biases from individual COIs can't be disposed by critical discussions -- at least, critical discussions are not enough to address the effects of such biases in this funding context (where all the people likely to be in the discussions have biases in the same direction).
  88. Will increasing public funding of research encourage competing approaches? #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  89. It seems the diversity of research communities depends on decisions of external parties/institutions
  90. Research communities are not autonomous in tending to the conditions of their community in order to achieve the conditions required for objective research.  Where the money comes from matters (because of its ability to bias), and it's coming from outside the community.

    Thus, we also need to notice the impact of science policy (including but not limited to policy around funding research) and educational policy, both nationally and internationally, on epistemic diversity. Saanna argues that Longino's criteria could be updated to acknowledge this.
  91. Call for philosophers to comment more actively on policy decisions #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  92. Longino has said that scientific communities ought to cultivate dissenting views.  What are the policy implications of this?
  93. Saanna Jukola is concerned that the requirements for entry to the research communities should be supplemented to protect research communities from the effects of outside forces (forces that, presumably, may not value objectivity in the same way).

    Boaz Miller says he thinks Longino may have some resources she can bring to bear here.
    What about alternate funding regimes the cultivate diversity within research communities? (What might these look like?
    Kristin Borgerson says that Longino is describing norms, and that things like funding policy should be assessed in this light.  If a funding policy makes it impossible for a research community to live up to these norms, that funding policy should be ditched.
    Jon Rosenberg suggests that the problem might be in how Longino delineates who should count as being part of the scientific discourse.
  94. Longino's criteria may need revision, include philosophy of science - where to draw borders of discourse? #SPSP2013Toronto #SPSP2013
  95. If we don't want to include philosophers of science in the discourse, even broadening it to include researchers not working on SSRIs (or researchers not funded by big pharma/other private entities) might help.  (We shouldn't forget Carl Elliott's warning that philosophers can be corrupted by money just as easily as scientists.)

    Research communities are defined by their similar aims, and by the similar questions they're trying to answer ... but how strong a sense of similarity do we need here?
  96. Editorial note: By necessity, this session was reconstructed from a combination of tweets and handwritten notes.  The hybrid actually seems to work out pretty well.

    The question I have (which might get different answers from people who were in the room vs. people who followed the session remotely) is whether the predominately tweeted papers (early in the session) lose something in the presentation.  (We might also ask whether my transcribed notes lose something by being wordy rather than concise.)

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One response so far

  • Zuska says:

    Maybe I am old school (or just old) but I find the "wordier" parts easier to follow and understand than the tweets.

    The idea of actively constructed ignorance is important - somewhere I have a reference on that. Will try to look it up.