Scientists tend to describe scientific knowledge as value-neutral. They usually love the homily of ‘two-edged knife’. A knife can be used either to kill people (by a robber for instance) or to save people (by a doctor for instance). Just like a knife, scientific knowledge can be used either for good causes or for bad causes, depending on who are using it. Similarly, ideal scientific research is usually envisaged to be value-free. In order to produce untainted, value-neutral knowledge, researchers should execute their research in a ‘pure’ setting without any particular value-laden agendas. Good scientific works must (and can) be distinguished from bad ones by judging their faithfulness to this ideal of value-free research. The recent scientific fraud case of Dr Hwang’s stem-cell research team raises a number of controversial issues related to this ideal. Scientists tend to focus on ‘immoral’ conduct of data fabrication, suggesting Dr Hwang’s ‘impure’ connections with politicians. They also love to emphasize the defects of government-driven science policy, and ask for more freedom in utilizing public fund for their ‘pure’ research. Although these claims have some points, the paper argues that Dr Hwang’s case also vividly shows how the intricacies of scientific research are highly value-laden in various ways; epistemologically, socially and institutionally. It also claims that neglecting the value-laden nature of scientific research will hinder tackling the problem of scientific fraud.

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Scientific research as value-laden activity
The case of nt stem-cell research in Korea

Sang-Wook Yi   Department of Philosophy, Hanyang University

Scientists tend to describe scientific knowledge as value-neutral. They usually love the homily of ‘two-edged knife’. A knife can be used either to kill people (by a robber for instance) or to save people (by a doctor for instance). Just like a knife, scientific knowledge can be used either for good causes or for bad causes, depending on who are using it. Similarly, ideal scientific research is usually envisaged to be value-free. In order to produce untainted, value-neutral knowledge, researchers should execute their research in a ‘pure’ setting without any particular value-laden agendas. Good scientific works must (and can) be distinguished from bad ones by judging their faithfulness to this ideal of value-free research. The recent scientific fraud case of Dr Hwang’s stem-cell research team raises a number of controversial issues related to this ideal. Scientists tend to focus on ‘immoral’ conduct of data fabrication, suggesting Dr Hwang’s ‘impure’ connections with politicians. They also love to emphasize the defects of government-driven science policy, and ask for more freedom in utilizing public fund for their ‘pure’ research. Although these claims have some points, the paper argues that Dr Hwang’s case also vividly shows how the intricacies of scientific research are highly value-laden in various ways; epistemologically, socially and institutionally. It also claims that neglecting the value-laden nature of scientific research will hinder tackling the problem of scientific fraud.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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