Kevin Elliott’s is professor at Michigan State University. His scholarship focuses on responsibly addressing the roles that ethical and social values play in scientific research, especially in policy-relevant areas of environmental research. He has explored the influences of financial conflicts of interest in research, ethical issues that arise in science communication, and collaborative authorship practices in science teams. Trained in the history and philosophy of science, he engages actively in interdisciplinary work by collaborating with environmental scientists and working with scientific and policy organizations like the European Food Safety Authority and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of Is a Little Pollution Good for You? Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research (2011) and A Tapestry of Values: An Introduction to Values in Science (2017). His courses tend to focus on environmental philosophy and on the many roles that ethical and social values play in scientific research.
“The Tapestry of Values – How Values influence”
The role of values in scientific research has become an important topic of discussion in both scholarly and popular debates. Pundits across the political spectrum worry that research on topics like climate change, evolutionary theory, vaccine safety, and genetically modified foods has become overly politicized. At the same time, it is clear that values play an important role in science by limiting unethical forms of research and by deciding what areas of research have the greatest relevance for society. Deciding how to distinguish legitimate and illegitimate influences of values in scientific research is a matter of vital importance.
Recently, philosophers of science have written a great deal on this topic, but most of their work has been directed toward a scholarly audience. Kevin Elliott examines case studies from a variety of research areas, including climate science, anthropology, chemical risk assessment, ecology, neurobiology, biomedical research, and agriculture. These cases show that values have necessary roles to play in identifying research topics, choosing research questions, determining the aims of inquiry, responding to uncertainty, and deciding how to communicate information.
Kevin Elliott focuses not just on describing roles for values but also on determining when their influences are actually appropriate. He emphasizes several conditions for incorporating values in a legitimate fashion, and highlights multiple strategies for fostering engagement between stakeholders so that value influences can be subjected to careful and critical scrutiny.