Philosophy of Scientific Practice:
Reliable Data, replication, and the idea of control

Claims about a replication crisis in the experimental sciences have recently led to serious soul-searching amongst scientists, funders and other stakeholders. This led to calls for fundamental changes to the way research is being conducted and funded. 

 

The aim of this strand of my research is to re-assess the very foundations on which these wide-ranging policy debates are based. A key driving force behind the crisis narrative is the worry that current practices in the experimental sciences, and in particular in fields such as pre-clinical cancer research, are not producing reliable data; there is not enough stringent control - on different levels of experimental practice - to ensure the production of trustworthy outputs.

However, the idea of control and how it can improve (or hamper) research is complex and not well-understood. The main objective of this strand of my research is to develop a deeper understanding of control practices in science and how they could inform the assessment and improvement of reliable data production.

Related publications:

Guttinger S. "A new account of replication in the experimental life sciences." Philosophy of Science, 86 (3), 453-471.             (2019)

Guttinger S. "Replications everywhere." BioEssays, 40:1800055, (2018)

Ethics of Postgenomic Intervention and Control (EPIC)

The scientific picture of organismic function has radically changed in the postgenomic era, moving from the idea of a well-defined aggregate of organism-specific cells to a multi-species, co-produced process with vague boundaries. These radical shifts in our conceptual landscape have important ramifications for a range of debates.

 

Of particular interest to the EPIC project are debates about the ethics of biomedical interventions and control strategies in the postgenomic era: as our picture of the human body in particular changes, question about the ethics of these interventions also take on a new dimension. This, we claim, represents an under-studied area of biomedical ethics.

 

The EPIC project will in particular focus on two interventions, namely genome editing and vaccination. Both interventions aim at modulating and controlling key parts of the human body (the genome and the immune response). Both are fraught with questions about safety, procedure and long-term ramifications for the well-being of individuals and populations more generally. 

Related publications:

Guttinger S. "The anti-vaccination debate and the microbiome." EMBO Reports, 20: e47709 (2019)

Guttinger S. "The Virome and the Anti-Vaccination Debate." The Scientist, June (2017)