Addressing problems in profit-driven research: how can feminist conceptions of objectivity help?

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 4 (2):135-151 (2014)
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Although there is increased recognition of the inevitable--and perhaps sometimes beneficial-- role of values in scientific inquiry, there are also growing concerns about the potential for commercial values to lead to bias. This is particularly evident in biomedical research. There is a concern that conflicts of interest created by commercialization may lead to biased reasoning or methodological choices in testing drugs and medical interventions. In addition, such interests may lead research in directions that are unresponsive to pressing social needs, when it is profitable to do so. Feminist philosophy of science seems particularly well situated to provide resources to help address such concerns because this literature has both 1) theorized about how to minimize biases in science, e.g., sexist or androcentric biases, and 2) generated accounts of objectivity that do not require individual scientists to be value-neutral or disinterested. Two such accounts are assessed in relation to concerns about commercial bias: those offered by feminist empiricism and standpoint feminism. We argue that standpoint feminism is more promising because it has resources to address, not just the epistemological, but also the inescapably ethical dimensions of commercial bias.



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Inmaculada de Melo-Martin
Weill Cornell Medicine--Cornell University

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