Prof. Maria Baghramian: Trust in Science (University of Dublin)
Professor Maria Baghramian is visiting the Science Studies Colloquium Series. Baghramians main research areas are Philosophy of Language, Contemporary American Philosophy (Putnam, Davidson, Rorty and Quine), Relativism, Topics in Cognitive Science; her publications primarily focus on the topic of intractable disagreements in beliefs and values and on Neo-Pragmatism.
The seminar is open for everyone!
Picture: University of Dublin
Trust in science
Science, as practiced today, is a collective enterprise whose conduct requires a great deal of division of epistemic labour. Trust between scientists working together as well as between scientific communities and groups is one of the elements that makes the collaborative work of science possible. Scientists place trust in their colleagues' testimony delivered though written work or conference presentations, the data and products of other scientists’ research, and the specialist technical equipment and the technicians operating them. Scientists also fall back on what, elsewhere, we have called “trustworthiness heuristics”, making prior assumptions about:
- The reliability of well regarded journals/institutes/co-authors.
- The efficacy of the process of peer review as well as the broader institutional structures, labs, or universities underpinning them.
- The reliability of established experimental and mathematical methodologies and procedures
- The (at least in principle) reproducibility of scientific experiments and results.
Such commitment, however, can lead to conservatism in science and thus mitigate against the pursuit of more risky but creative science. To take one example, the risk averseness of science is exacerbated when crucial research resources (funding, access to facilities etc.) are allocated by peer review panels. We thus face a dilemma: Good science cannot be conducted without trust, but the requirement of being and appearing trustworthy can make scientists risk-averse and hence less creative. The imperative of being trustworthy, therefore, could lead to worse science than we might otherwise have.