Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Science and Justice Training Program explores ethics of scientific research

Founders and participants outline program in ‘PLOS Biology’

By Guy Lasnier

Jenny Reardon is an associate professor of sociology and co-director of the Science and Justice Training Program. Co-director Karen Barad is professor of feminist studies and history of consciousness.

A subtle but significant shift in how national science policy makers regard the outcomes of scientific research has created opportunities for innovative programs such as the Science and Justice Training Program (SJTP) at UC Santa Cruz.

The interdisciplinary program, within UCSC’s Science and Justice Research Center, trains graduate students to explore the effects and impacts of their research on society. Writing recently in a scientific journal, members of the training program, co-directed by Jenny Reardon, associate professor of sociology, and Karen Barad, professor of feminist studies, outline the UCSC effort that was founded in 2010 with a National Science Foundation grant.

The article “Experiments in Collaboration: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Science and Justice” appears on the community page of the July 30 issue of PLOS Biology.

“In a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, the SJTP aims to offer one pathway for science and engineering to connect to social issues and public concerns in a more practical, substantive, and thoughtful way,” the authors write.

Although policy changes over the past 20 years have led to an increased awareness of the impact of science on society, little direction is provided on how to proceed. That has created “an unexpected and underexploited benefit,” the authors write. “Where there is a mandate with little guidance, there is also an opportunity to innovate.”

At UCSC that means increased ethics education requirements for graduate students and a training program to deliver it. It means scientists and engineers working with colleagues in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

As an example, the authors cite two physics students working on solar greenhouse technology for industrial applications. They had hoped their technology also would be useful to and embraced by small-scale organic farmers.

However, after interviewing farmers using techniques learned in an SJTP research methods seminar, they learned the farmers wanted nothing to do with high-tech approaches. This prompted the researchers to rethink who might benefit from their work.

The goal is “not to turn scientists into social scientists or humanities scholars or vice versa,” the authors write. “Rather, it is to create opportunities for graduate students and other SJTP members to gather around common objects and concerns (e.g., a greenhouse, climate change, or the use of racial categories in biomedical research.”

Also contributing to the article were Jacob Metcalf, a postdoctoral fellow for the training program; along with graduate student fellows Ian Carbone, Martha Kenney, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Derek Padilla, Miriam Olivera, Kate Richerson, and Tiffany Wise-West.

Andrew Mathews co-authors article on the contributions of anthropology to understanding climate change

SJRC Director Andrew Mathews contributed to a recently published Perspectives piece in Nature Climate Change (pdf here) detailing how anthropologists can contribute to understanding the social and political dynamics of climate change. In this piece, Barnes et al. identify three types of insights anthropologists are well suited to provide.

First, the discipline draws attention to the cultural values and political relations that shape climate-related knowledge creation and interpretation and that form the basis of responses to continuing environmental changes. These insights come from the in-depth fieldwork that has long been the hallmark of anthropology. The second contribution is an awareness of the historical context underpinning contemporary climate debates — a result of archaeologists’ and environmental anthro- pologists’ interest in the history of society–environment interactions. The third is anthropology’s broad, holistic view of human and natural systems, which highlights the multiple cultural, social, political and economic changes that take place in our societies. Societal dynamics, as drivers of change, always interact with, and often outweigh, climate change — an issue that needs recognition for the success of public policies.

The authors note the challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration that Science & Justice has also worked to address. Varied temporal and geographic scales, differing approaches to qualitative and quantitative work, and contrasting commitments of the values of specificity and generalization for understanding phenomena can sometimes put social and natural sciences at cross purposes. However, when gathered around shared and pressing problems, the friction between disciplines can be made productive rather than detrimental or competitive. They write,

Ever more serious challenges to scientific understandings of climate change and policy responses — in both domestic and international political arenas — make the climate science and policy community more open to inputs from the social sciences. This Perspective argues that anthropology could play a central role in this, by offering methods to access the social, cultural and political processes that shape climate debates. Just as anthropologists can learn from climate science about the changing environmental conditions we live in, so too can climate scientists learn from anthropological research.

Science & Justice aims to foster just such cross-disciplinary collaboration and literacy, bringing together multiple forms of expertise to address major problems in contemporary science and technology.

S&J Training Program Fellow joins delegation in DC to advocate for more graduate training funding

SJTP Fellow and Environmental Studies doctoral student Tiffany Wise-West filed this report from a lobbying trip to Washington, DC with the “UC in DC” program. The statements made in this piece are her own opinions and not those of any UC-affiliated advocacy group.

In late May, 2013 a delegation from UCSC joined other UC campus delegations for UC in DC day, advocating to Congress for strong and sustained federal funding of graduate research and education. Over 26,000 graduate researchers are partially supported by the $3.1 billion in federal research funding annually, representing two-thirds of total research funding awarded to UCs each year. With over 7% of the nation’s PhDs being awarded from the UC system, UC leads the way in building the intellectual capital necessary to fill the 2.6 million jobs in California projected to require advanced degree by year 2020.

The UCSC delegation meets with Representative Sam Farr (CA-20th District) to discuss the consequences of budget cuts on graduate student training.

Graduate training, long a focal area of the Science and Justice Research Center, will be impacted by cuts to federal discretionary funding in the next fiscal year as a result of the sequestration mechanism put into law by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Additional discretionary cuts to research, education, and health programs will be accomplished in future years by decreasing the total funds available for annual appropriations. Without a change to or repeal of the sequestration law, the following impacts to graduate education will go into effect:

 · Deep cuts through year 2021 to key agencies funding graduate research opportunities such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, USDA, NASA, Department of Defense, and others.

· Reductions in student aid support will occur as the number of Pell Grants awarded decrease through year 2021 and interest rates for new federal students loans could increase from 3.4 to 6.8% after July 2013.

Obviously failure to “build the brain trust” has the potential to stifle technological innovation and could be economically damaging for the State. Chancellor Blumenthal, in his Open Forum piece in the May 9, 2013 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, frames this issue in terms of UCSC’s cancer genome research and asks how we, as a society, cannot afford this research that is so clearly in the public’s interest. Thus, crucial social justice questions are also associated with the current funding situation. Societal human health impacts aside, the inability to maintain or increase funding to graduate programs and grant-making agencies will have dire impacts on prospective graduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds or communities with respect to affordability and accessibility of healthcare.

Moreover, as Senator Harkin’s (D-Iowa) Education Policy Advisor pointed out, the Senator believes that education should never be treated as a discretionary expense but rather always speaks of it in terms of an investment in a self-perpetuating source of innovation, an economic driver and equalizer. As long as Congress thinks of educational funding as an “expense” vs. an “investment” and continues to make choices that prohibit pathways to advanced degrees, generations of Americans may accept the notion that advanced degrees are simply “out of reach” and be dissuaded from pursuing them.

So, what are our options? Outside of aggressive advocacy with Congress to improve the situation through legislative means, UC delegates informed Senator Feinstein (D-CA) that UC is working to enhance early and robust alumni contribution campaigns and foster public-private partnerships in research funding as a means to deal with continual uncertainty and reductions in funding. While these actions can make significant contributions, they do not begin to reach the order of magnitude required to offset the divestment of federal funding in graduate research and education. Congressional representatives from districts in which UCSC is located all explicitly support UC’s graduate research funding agenda. But with such a divided Congress, it is unlikely that legislative action will succeed in maintaining or increasing funding levels.

The next opportunity to weigh in on this issue is at the state level by contacting your legislator to support the increases proposed for UC in Governor Brown’s proposed, revised state budget that was released on May 14, 2013 and will be voted on by the legislature on June 14, 2013.

 

 

Andrew Mathews receives the Harold & Margaret Sprout Award for recent book

Andrew S. Mathews, Director of the Science & Justice Research Center and Associate Professor of Anthropology, received the Harold and Margaret Sprout Award  from the International Studies Association’s Environment Section for his 2011 book Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (MIT Press). The Harold and Margaret Sprout Award recognizes the best book in the study of international environmental problems in the preceding two years. Mathew’s book traces the hundred year history of how the science of forestry arrived in the forests of Mexico and was transformed by indigenous communities who live and work in forests.

Jenny Reardon’s op-ed sparks conversation about medical and genetic privacy

Lung tissue samples taken from the body of a soldier who died of influenza in 1918 are pictured in an undated photo. Credit: Armed Forces Institute Of Pathol, NYT

SJRC Co-Director Jenny Reardon published an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 2, 2013, “Should patients understand that they are research subjects?” In the article she recounts visiting a physician at UC San Francisco and not being able to parse the standard informed consent to having tissues and/or medical data used anonymously in medical research. At the heart of problem is a confusing mix of U.S. case law that denies ownership over one’s bodily tissues once they have left one’s body, medical privacy standards that require providers and researchers to inform you that they may use the tissues for research without directly requesting permission, and the speed at which medical advances are occurring. Given these conditions, it is actually imposible to know what one is consenting to when one signs these ubiquitous forms, making that ‘consent’ tenuous at best. Reardon, whose research examines the social, ethical political dynamics of biomedicine and genomics, notes that even experts like her are in the dark about how their tissues might be used in the near future, and recent research has shown that while researchers may aspire to keeping tissues and data anonymous it is no longer technically feasible.

I have spent two decades studying this minefield, and even I had a hard time making sense of what it might mean for these researchers to have access to my samples. For example, UCSF would be required by law to make my samples “anonymous,” yet research published in Science the day of my visit revealed that even anonymous samples can be reidentified. Does this mean that information gained from my samples might be linked back to me?

Reardon cites recent developments in patient consent at the University of Washington medical centers as a model for UCSF and other providers to adopt. At the University of Washington, patients are able to opt out of research without their physicians knowing, and thus not feel as if they are risking their access to care. Additionally, Reardon supports giving patients more rights to affirmatively opt in to research whenever their tissues or data is desired by researchers.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board also published an editorial in support of Reardon’s proposal. The editors suggest that as the US Department of Health and Human Services revises its standards for medical consent, they should keep these principles in mind:

— Patients may not have legal “property,” but they still have rights. Regulators should err on the side of more patient disclosure, not less.

— Compensation is going to be a big question going forward, but it doesn’t have to be monetary. If there’s no longer a way to provide patients with anonymity, will they have free or reasonably priced access to medical developments that come about as a result of their cells or DNA?

— Standardized disclosures should be encouraged throughout the industry. Different institutions have widely varying policies. Patients don’t deserve to be confused.

In response to these two pieces, UCSF’s Elizabeth A. Boyd, associate vice chancellor for ethics and compliance, and Daniel Dohan, associate professor of health policy and social medicine, noted that the success of medical research rests on relationships of trust between physicians, researchers and patients. The development of personalized medicine, which promises to revolutionize health care by tailoring treatments to individuals, will require willingness on the part of patients to provide samples for research and testing. Boyd and Dohan note that UCSF supports revising consent standards, and cite the recent creati0n of EngageUC, an initiative on the part of UC physicians and faculty to develop new comprehensive guidelines.

We want to develop a consent process and a set of policies that will help ensure that all patients – whether they have volunteered for specific research, are donating leftover tumor samples, or are being admitted to the hospital for care – truly understand what information may be gleaned from their samples, how that information will be used, whom it will be shared with, and what privacy controls can – and cannot – be guaranteed.

Reardon and the rest of the UCSC Science & Justice Research Center will continue to contribute to these conversations.

 

Jenny Reardon Awarded Brocher Foundation Residency

Jenny Reardon, Associate Professor of Sociology, Founder and Co-Director of the Science & Justice Research Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz was awarded a Residency with The Brocher Foundation to write her upcoming book The Post-Genomic Condition: Ethics, Justice and Knowledge After the Genome.

The Brocher Foundation is a Swiss non profit law Foundation offering visiting researchers the opportunity to stay at the Brocher Centre in a peaceful park on shores of Lake Geneva, to write a book – articles – an essay or a PhD thesis. The visiting positions are a unique occasion to meet other researchers from different disciplines and countries as well as experts from numerous International Organizations & Non Gouvernemental Organizations based in Geneva such as WHO, WTO, WIPO, UNHCR, ILO, WMA, ICRC.

Since 2007 the Brocher Centre has hosted more than a hundred junior and senior researchers from all around the world for stays ranging from one to six months.

Residencies with the Brocher Centre give researchers (PhD students to Professors) the opportunity to work on projects on the ethical, legal and social implications for humankind of recent medical research and new technologies.

 

Informational meeting for new cohort of Science & Justice Graduate Training Program

INFORMATIONAL MEETING: Wednesday March 6 2013, 12:30-2:00PM, at the Baytree Conference Center. Lunch will be provided.

SPRING 2013 COURSE: Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration (SOCY/BME/FMST 268A and ANTH 267), Prof. Andrew Mathews, Thursdays 9-12:00

We are pleased to announce new opportunities for graduate students to join our NSF-funded Science & Justice Training Program. The SJTP brings together students and faculty from across all departments and divisions on campus to develop innovative research at the intersections of science and society. Students will receive training and mentorship in interdisciplinary research methods and develop collaborative research projects. The spring course, Science & Justice: Experiments in Collaboration, will be the first step in a (pending) Graduate Certificate Program that will provide students with a number of opportunities for research funding, planning and hosting colloquia related to their research, training in writing for interdisciplinary academic and non-academic audiences and participating in other NSF-sponsored projects.

Enrollment in the course is required for participating in the Training Program. Attending the informational meeting is strongly encouraged, but not required.

Past collaborative research projects have included:

  • Physicists working with small scale farmers to develop solar greenhouses scaled to local farming needs
  • Colloquia about the social and political consequences of scientific uncertainty in climate change research
  • Examining how art can empower food system justice movements
  • Working with local publics to improve African fishery science

Prior SJTP Fellows have come from the following departments: Philosophy, Physics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Studies, History of Consciousness, Digital Arts and New Media, Sociology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Anthropology, and Politics.

Click there to download a flyer for this event.

 

Recent special issues edited by Science & Justice members, past and present

A number of past and present Science & Justice members have recently edited special editions of scholarly journals focussed on themes commonly explored in Science & Justice colloquia and courses. These collections highlight the ways in which S&J facilitates thinking across boundaries and gathering around interesting objects.

Assistant Director of the S&J Research Center  Jacob Metcalf and longtime friend of S&J, Thom van Dooren (University of New South Wales), co-edited an edition of Environmental Philosophy (9:1) titled Temporal Environments: Rethinking Time and Ecology. The collection of essays addresses the role that temporality, or lived time, should have in environmental philosophy, and especially ethics. The role of time in environmental ethics has largely been restricted to an empty container for human agency to do good or ill. By understanding time as material, produced, constructed, maintained, lived, multiple, and a more-than-human concern, the authors in this collection are able to ask which times are liveable for humans and non-humans alike. This topic grew out of Science & Justice discussions, especially the Slow Science event in Fall 2011.

Astrid Schrader (York), a founding member of the Science & Justice Working Group, co-edited with Sophia Roosth (Harvard) a special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies (23:3) titled Feminist Theory Out of Science. The issue features articles by a number of Science & Justice members and friends, including Karen Barad, co-Director of the Science & Justice Training Program. Attending to the rich entanglements of scientific and critical theory, contributors to this issue scrutinize phenomena in nature to explore new territory in feminist science studies. With a special focus on relating theory to method, these scholars generate new feminist approaches to scientific practice. What emerges from these diverse essays is an approach to critical thinking that inhabits, elaborates, and feeds upon scientific theory, holding feminist theory accountable to science and vice versa.

Lindsay Kelley (Public Library of Science), an early member of the Science & Justice Working Group, and Lynn Turner (Goldsmiths) co-edited an issue of parallax (19:1) titled bon appétit. This issue includes a contribution from S&J Assistant Director, Jacob Metcalf, on the ethics of cultured meat and the stories we tell about technoscientific advances. bon appétit explores the limits of eating, confronting the boundaries between self and other, filth and food.  At the time of writing escalating food costs – especially as linked to climate change – provoke daily crises, demonstrating the urgency of a wholesale rethinking of the matter of what, how and who we eat. The essays engage different strategies and target different aspects of this erstwhile basic need.

Forthcoming shortly as a special issue in Science Technology & Human Values, S&J advisory board member Laura Mamo (SFSU) and Jennifer Fishman (McGill) have collected articles on the Entanglements of Science, Ethics and Justice. This issue grew out of a conference about topics in science and justice at SFSU, including an article on genomics and justice by Jenny Reardon, co-Director of the S&J Research Center.

Karen Barad provides keynote address to “MATTERING: Feminism, Science and Materialism” conference

Karen Barad, co-Director for the Science & Justice Training Program, will provide the keynote address at the upcoming feminist science studies conference at CUNY, MATTERING: Feminism, Science and Materialism.

This conference, organized jointly by the Center for the Study of Women and Society, the Committee on Interdisciplinary Science Studies and the Advanced Research Collaborative at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, will engage with feminist perspectives on the onto-epistemological questions raised by the materialist turn.

In the past decade, feminist theory has elaborated new materialist perspectives to re-imagine nature, biology, and matter more generally and to critically address new developments in biology, physics, neuroscience and other scientific disciplines. This scholarship revisits the relationship between human corporeality and subjectivity, questions and redefines the boundaries of human and non-human and nature and culture, and elaborates on their mutual entanglements. New feminist theories address materialization as a complex and open process and matter as lively and productive. The conference will address: the intellectual and scientific context of the new turn toward materialism; the relation of matter (including the biological body) to the social; the insights, knowledge and methodologies offered by the new materialist studies of science; the political implications of neo-materialism for feminism as a project, theory and a movement for social justice; theoretical innovations for addressing material-discursive relations and the epistemological questions they raise; and empirical research using materialist feminist frameworks.

Science & Justice Announces Artists in Residence

The Science & Justice Research Center is pleased to announce a new Artists in Residence program for undergraduate students, supported by the OpenLab, SPARC and the Arts at UCSC.

This year we are featuring two artists, Patrick Appleby and Kiko Kolb. Patrick and Kiko will be engaged in Science & Justice Programming throughout the year. They will produce material to be displayed in our rotating gallery and assist our graduate student Fellows with realization of their projects. Their residencies supply them with materials and lab fees for projects that capture the major themes of the Center’s research.

Patrick  is a fourth year Art and History of Art & Visual Culture undergraduate from Benicia, CA. He works mainly in the media of painting and printmaking though his concepts are influenced by photography and the technologies of vision. He has an interest in experimenting with and exploring the visual image and the role of human subjectivity in technological mediations of the world. Recently his projects have aimed to connect photographic and virtual realities in different ways. By exploring the ways in which the world is represented visually he aims to better understand the role of human observation in an increasingly technological world.

His residency is co-sponsored by the OpenLab Network. This is directed by Professor Jennifer Parker and targets a complex education issue of national significance regarding the ability of art and science researchers to collaborate on research endeavors. It aims to help change the current status by providing shared research facilities and create a network for collaborative discourse fueled by academic communities, arts and science communities, and industry.

Kiko is a 4th year art student at the UCSC Art Department working with a range of contemporary print methods and specializing in digital printmaking. She is also interested in installations, especially large scale, and site specific environments, as well as other areas of intermedia that combine print, digital elements, and sculpture. Kiko is also very inspired by the collaborative aspect of Art and the innovation it facilitates, leading to her work for the past year to create collaborative art opportunities at Stevenson’s annual Rock n Roll on the Knoll concert, as well as becoming more involved with the print studios on campus. Kiko’s work reflects ideas of youth and digital culture and how it relates to societies ways of thinking, as well as the playful abstract renditions of her own world.

Her residency is co-sponsored by the Social Practice Arts Research Center (SPARC). This is co-directed by Professors Dee Hibbert-Jones, EG Crichton and Elliot Anderson and fosters knowledge exchange and project building between artists, scientists, the public and others with a vision towards active social and environmental change. Working across disciplines, it aims to engender and support collaborations and projects that have a local, national or international impact on the public sphere.