July 31, 2013
My practicum in the philosophic aspects of scientific research is technically over today. My internship at LBPA (Laboratoire de biologie et de pharmacologie applliquée) was an amazing experience. I want to thank Bianca Sclavi and the teams at ENS-Cachan for being so kind and flexible to my non-scientific presence in their laboratories. I hope that I opened a few minds to the idea of the benefits of integrating the humanities with the physical sciences.
During my time as an embedded philosopher I have tried to ask questions that people somehow ignore in the lab. These questions attempt to expose the epistemic values that are hidden within the scientific method, and show how the physical sciences represent reality just as well as other disciplines. Due to the values embedded within research projects the physical sciences do not actually uncover ‘truths’ of reality, but in fact the knowledge produced from a lab is similar to a fictional narrative. From deciding which graphs to chose for a report, which instruments to trust, or even the simple act of pipetting there are always values that frame the scientific research.
However, before I finish my summer project I would like to reintegrate the three themes of my practicum. One of my focuses was to look at the policy aspects of the scientific process. I began by looking into how the research at LBPA is funded. It became clear that the process of applying for funding is flawed as it is now becoming more and more of a game of luck. The number of applicants grows every year, as does the need for labs to consider what they bring to society. This brought me to the second focus of my internship: broader impacts. It is becoming necessary for research teams to consider the impacts of their research, and it is also becoming increasingly clear that the best way to accomplish this is through interdisciplinary (ID) and transdisciplinary (TD) research. Research teams who claim that their projects are only for the sake of science are in danger of losing funding. Researchers need to learn how to engage with other academics from different disciplines and with the citizens of their society to be competitive for grant money. My research on broader impacts led me to the third focus of my internship. Due to the importance of ID/TD I decided to investigate the state of ID/TD education and research in Paris.
It turns out that I’ve launched myself on a set of new adventures. I visited the Centre de Researche Interdisciplinaire (CRI) in Paris, and learned a lot about their programs for ID/TD research and education. I have met with their curriculum designer to find ways that I can become involved with their courses on the philosophy of science this fall. This might be in the form of a presentation describing my practicum, or I might lead a discussion group every week on science and society studies and the philosophical questions intrinsic to scientific research. This is all still in the planning stages, but I am looking forward to working with CRI this fall.
So, all in all I would have to say this summer has been a success. My final report on my experiments at LBPA contests the current understanding of the structure of a cell, and hopefully further research on this area will lead to breakthroughs on how the inner structure of the cell effects DNA replication. To learn more about this visit the link below to my final report. Also, one of my hopes for this internship was to establish relationships that could potentially being me back to Paris in the future, and I believe that there is a strong possibility of that happening.
I hope you all have a wonderful month of August! I will be off reading Adieux by De Beauvoir on a beach in Greece. I am looking forward to a break from reading science and STS articles….