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65. Social Factors in Science


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science, social issues

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00068.x


Although there has long been an interest in how social factors play a role in science, recent years have seen a remarkable growth of attention to the issue. There are quite different ways in which social influences might function, some of which are more controversial than others. 1. Setting the goals of research . This is often done with an eye to technology, and the major directions are usually set by the various sponsoring governments. That a large number of scientists work in solid state physics and in cancer research, while relatively few work in astrophysics, simply reflects social policy. And sometimes direct public pressure can have an influence, as is evident in the case of AIDS research. 2. Setting ethical standards for research procedures . Some pretty grizzly things have been done in the pursuit of knowledge. In response, social pressure has been brought to bear on the methods of research. The use of animals, for example, is strictly regulated in most countries. The use of human subjects is similarly constrained in diverse ways. Informed consent, for instance, must typically be sought, even though telling an experimental subject what an experiment is about may diminish the value of the experiment. Certain sorts of research are prohibited altogether. These two types of social factor in science concern aims and methods, respectively. Even though there is massive social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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