Friday, August 18, 2017

Led by: Theodore Brown, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Description: Objectivity is considered to be one of the hallmarks of a scientific approach to study of the natural world. But what do we mean by this term? To what extent does the notion of objectivity bear upon society‘s acceptance of scientific authority? Is objectivity in the pursuit of science at the most basic level distinguishable from objectivity in the applications of science? Is it possible to establish criteria for evaluating objectivity? Questions of objectivity may arise in science policy debates, in evaluations of scientific results that bear in important ways on societal affairs, such as work on climate change or toxicological studies. How are questions regarding objectivity addressed? Finally, how do we evaluate the objectivity of those conducting science studies?

Questions/agenda items to take forward:

  • Improved understanding of objectivity in science depends upon a more active awareness of the nature of scientific work, and educational initiatives, among them the following:
    • What does objectivity mean in science?  What forms does non-objectivity take?  Should objectivity be a goal/idea of science? How do the scientist’s own views intersect with and influence an objective stance with respect to the conduct of scientific research?
    • What are the philosophical underpinnings of the idea of objectivity?  How can these be more effectively communicated in the teaching of science, so as to inform scientific practice  and the communication of scientific results? What are the processes by which “truth” about the natural world is arrived at? How does a scientific  consensus evolve.? Understanding of this process is important to societal acceptance of scientific findings as objective.
  • Find ways to draft materials into the science curriculum
    • there needs to be an emphasis on how science gets done
    • currently not much on how science itself is organized, and how conflicting views are resolved within the scientific community.
  • How to encourage a change in scientific culture?
    • Encourage the publication of lay summaries of research that include the intent, aim, importance, and impact of research.  Would be located in a public repository.

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