Accepted Paper:

The Struggle for Epistemic Superiority in Medical Research  


Alexander Christian (University of Duesseldorf)
Christian Feldbacher (University of Duesseldorf)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper parts of the recent debate on defects in medical research are re-framed by help of the notion of knowledge regimes; with this notion also the socio-political perspective on changes in relevant collectives can be spelled out adequately.

Paper long abstract:

A wider public has recently become aware of problems with moral integrity in medical and pharmaceutical research. Clinical trials have come to be viewed more distrustfully due to incidents like the suppression of evidence in the Tamiflu® case (Payne, 2012) or harms to test-subjects like the death of a proband in France in January 2016 (Ministère-des-Affaires-Sociales, 2016-01-15). Such defects lead, amongst others, to an alarming loss of trust in research generally. Simultaneously, the discussion of good scientific practice has focused on the prevention of bias and the limitation of the corruptive influence of conflicts of interest (Lieb et al, 2011).

In philosophy of science and research ethics is a tendency to treat institutional responses to corrupting influences as pro-/reactive measures which are installed to secure the integrity of research. We will reconstruct recent rearrangements of epistemic authorities in medical and pharmaceutical research in terms of conflicting regimes (e.g., Gibbons et al, 1994) and their struggle for epistemic superiority. We first present recent changes in medical research like the introduction of clinical trial registries and the codification of corresponding guidelines in medical journals. Our thesis is that the broad concept of epistemic regimes provides a fruitful framework, since it allows for the inclusion of a socio-political perspective on changing of collectives in academia, industry, and public authorities. Furthermore, we discuss mechanisms underlying the faults between these communities by help of social epistemological models. Therein virtues and vices of feedback-loops, communication (Zollman, 2007), and interaction between the mentioned communities are pointed out.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority