Imbalance and the State of Research. Emergent Challenges to the Independence of Science

David Hopf

In my Ph.D. research I focus on what I call “Imbalance in the State of Research”. This concept refers to a range of problems with the objectivity of scientific research such as publication bias, suppression of data, undone science , scientific dissent and others. What connects these issues is the idea that none of the mechanisms described necessarily imply that there is a problem with the truth or reliability of any particular published scientific finding; but still, they can be considered problems which have a biasing influence on the overall research landscape – i.e., the state of research – and the individual and policy decisions which are based on this information. This project is closely connected to scientific objectivity as freedom from bias, which is both a long-standing topic in philosophy of science research ethics. However, the importance of the overall state of research as an object of higher-level objectivity which is distinct from the objectivity of individual claims has not received sufficient recognition.
In my thesis, I address the issues above by taking up examples of imbalance in the literature: I describe both similarities and differences between them and then provide a normative-epistemic conceptual framework that explains why they constitute problems for the objectivity and independence of science. I thereby hope to contribute to the philosophical discussion of these higher-order concepts, but also to the understanding of the individual problems, and inspire further research into possible solutions.