Strategies to combine practical usefulness and epistemic merit of research in the life sciences

Minea Gartzlaff

In my PhD project, I investigate research strategies suited to enhance practical usefulness and epistemic merit of research in the life sciences. The research forms part of the DFG-funded project “Research in the Context of Practice: Strategies for Making Application-Oriented Science Epistemically Sound and Practically Beneficial”, led by Martin Carrier at Bielefeld University. It is motivated by debates about whether demand-driven science is the most successful in bringing about practically beneficial results and whether its focus on practical usefulness diminishes its epistemic merit. Clarification of these issues requires investigating the role that understanding of underlying processes plays in achieving practical usefulness of research outcomes. By conducting several case studies of research in the life sciences, I will analyze under which conditions the aims of understanding and usefulness foster each other or, on the contrary, conflict. The work thus aims to determine how science can be both practically and epistemically successful. It also has implications for designing the science society relationship – when should science be subjected to social demand and when should it rather proceed autonomously?