The potential for financial conflicts of interest (COIs) to damage the credibility of scientific research has become a significant social concern, especially in the wake of high-profile incidents involving the pharmaceutical, tobacco, fossil-fuel, and chemical industries. Scientists and policy makers have debated whether the presence of financial COIs should count as a reason for treating research with suspicion or whether research should instead be evaluated solely based on its scientific quality. This paper examines a recent proposal to develop criteria for (...) evaluating the credibility of research without considering its source of funding. It concludes that proposals of this sort are likely to be either ineffective or impractical in many cases. Nevertheless, this does not imply that all research funded by those with an interest in the outcome must be placed under a cloud of suspicion; there are conditions under which research is at much more serious risk of being corrupted than in other cases, and attention to these conditions can guide productive responses to financial COIs. (shrink)
We argue that environmental aesthetics, and specifically the concept of aesthetic integrity, should play a central role in a public environmental philosophy designed to communicate about environmental problems in an effective manner. After developing the concept of the ?aesthetic integrity? of the environment, we appeal to empirical research to show that it contributes significantly to people?s sense of place, which is, in turn, central to their well-being and motivational state. As a result, appealing to aesthetic integrity in policy contexts is (...) both strategically and morally advisable. To provide a concrete illustration of the ways in which such appeals can play a role in policy making, we examine a specific case study in which attention to aesthetic integrity contributed to blocking a proposed development. The case yields at least four lessons: (1) aesthetic integrity can be a practically effective framing device; (2) local deliberative settings are particularly conducive for addressing it; (3) it can serve as an umbrella under which multiple other issues can be brought to the fore; and (4) judgments about aesthetic integrity need not be entirely objective in order for them to play a productive role in the policy sphere. (shrink)
Relatively few thinkers have attempted to develop a systematic ‘ethics of expertise’ (EOE) that can guide scientists and other technical experts in providing information to the public. This paper argues that the prima facie duty to disseminate information in a manner that does not damage the self-determination of decision makers could fruitfully serve as one of the core principles of an EOE. Moreover, this duty can be fleshed out in promising ways by drawing on the concept of informed consent, which (...) guides medical clinicians in preserving the self-determination of their patients. The paper applies the resulting ethical framework to recent policy discussions about hydrogen fuel-cell (HFC) vehicles, both because they have received a good deal of research funding and because their merits have been hotly debated. It concludes that technical experts providing information about HFC vehicles should be especially cognizant of three issues: (1) important alternatives to hydrogen technology that need to be addressed, (2) major false beliefs that should be prevented or corrected, and (3) significant framing effects that could influence the recipients of information. (shrink)
Introduction : societal values and environmental research -- The Hormesis case -- An argument for societal values in policy-relevant research -- Lesson #1 : safeguarding science -- Lesson #2 : diagnosing deliberation -- Lesson #3 : ethics for experts -- The MCS and ED cases.
This paper examines how ethically significant assumptions and values are embedded not only in environmental policies but also in the language of the environmental sciences. It shows, based on three case studies associated with contemporary pollution research, how the choice of scientific categories and terms can have at least four ethically significant effects: influencing the future course of scientific research; altering public awareness or attention to environmental phenomena; affecting the attitudes or behavior of key decision makers; and changing the burdens (...) of proof required for taking action in response to environmental concerns. The paper argues that deliberative forums, research-ethics training, and conceptual work by environmental philosophers could all promote more ethically sensitive responses to these features of scientific language. (shrink)
Ethicists widely accept the notion that scientists have moral responsibilities to benefit society at large. The dissemination of scientific information to the public and its political representatives is central to many of the ways in which scientists serve society. Unfortunately, the task of providing information can often give rise to moral quandaries when scientific experts participate in politically charged debates over issues that are fraught with uncertainty. This paper develops a theoretical framework for an “ethics of expertise” (EOE) based on (...) the notion that scientists have responsibilities to provide information in a way that promotes autonomous decision-making on the part of the public and its representatives. Moreover, insofar as the principle of informed consent has developed in biomedical ethics as a way for physicians to promote autonomous decision-making on the part of their patients, this paper suggests that the informed-consent concept may suggest a set of criteria and guidelines that can help scientists to fulfill their similar ethical responsibilities to the public. In order to illustrate how the resulting EOE could provide practical guidance for scientific experts, the paper examines a case study involving the dissemination of information about the low-dose biological effects of toxic chemicals and carcinogens. (shrink)
The biological effects of low doses of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are currently a matter of significant scientific controversy. This paper argues that philosophers of science can contribute to alleviating this controversy by examining it with the aid of a novel account of scientific anomaly. Specifically, analysis of contemporary research on chemical hormesis (i.e., alleged beneficial biological effects produced by low doses of substances that are harmful at higher doses) suggests that scientists may initially describe anomalous phenomena in terms of (...) multiple distinct "characterizations," each of which is compatible with current empirical evidence. By focusing attention on this feature of scientific anomalies, philosophers of science can alleviate the controversy over low-dose chemical effects in at least two ways: (1) they can pinpoint the significant ways in which particular characterizations frame the controversy, and (2) they can identify the methodological value judgments at stake in researchers' choice of characterizations. (shrink)