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1.  The future of philosophy. 
There is no sharp dividing line between science and philosophy, but philosophical problems tend to have three special features. First, they tend to concern large frameworks rather than specific questions within the framework. Second, they are questions for which there is no generally accepted method of solution. And third they tend to involve conceptual issues. For these reasons a philosophical problem such as the nature of life can become a scientific problem if it is put into a shape where it admits of scientific resolution. Philosophy in the 20th century was characterized by a concern with logic and language, which is markedly different from the concerns of earlier centuries of philosophy. However, it shared with the European philosophical tradition since the 17th century an excessive concern with issues in the theory of knowledge and with scepticism. As the century ends, we can see that scepticism no longer occupies centre stage, and this enables us to have a more constructive approach to philosophical problems than was possible for earlier generations. This situation is somewhat analogous to the shift from the sceptical concerns of Socrates and Plato to the constructive philosophical enterprise of Aristotle. With that in mind, we can discuss the prospects for the following six philosophical areas: (1) the traditional mind-body problem; (ii) the philosophy of mind and cognitive science; (iii) the philosophy of language; (iv) the philosophy of society; (v) ethics and practical reasons; (vi) the philosophy of science. The general theme of these investigations, I believe, is that the appraisal of the true significance of issues in the philosophy of knowledge enables us to have a more constructive account of various other philosophical problems than has typically been possible for the past three centuries.
PMCID: PMC1692709  PMID: 10670025
2.  A Rationale and Outline for an Undergraduate Course on the Philosophy and History of Science for Life Science Students 
There are compelling reasons for teaching a philosophy of science course to undergraduate life science students. The main reason is to help them understand that modern science is not based upon a single, consistent philosophical system; nor is it based upon common sense, or a method, set of rules or formulas that can be used to make unerring predictions. Rather, science is a dynamic process that is constantly being modified and refined to reflect and encompass an ever-expanding set of hypotheses, observations, and theories. To illustrate these points, we developed a course that examined the history and philosophical underpinnings of modern science, and we discussed famous experiments that challenged the prevailing norm and led to Kuhnian revolutions in scientific thought. Building upon this knowledge, students investigated how different philosophical systems address controversial social issues in the biological sciences. They examined the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools, the implications of legalized abortion and physician-assisted suicide, the potential impact of DNA fingerprinting on human rights and racism, the promise and pitfalls of stem cell research, and the neurobiological basis of consciousness and its relevance to mental health therapies and the animal rights movement. We believe undergraduate life science students should be exposed to these issues and have an opportunity to develop informed opinions about them before they graduate from college. Exploration of such topics will help them become better prepared for the inevitable public debates that they will face as science educators, researchers, and leaders of society.
PMCID: PMC3031121  PMID: 21289866
natural philosophy; idealistic philosophy; process philosophy; case studies; social issues; science education
3.  A Rationale and Outline for an Undergraduate Course on the Philosophy and History of Science for Life Science Students 
There are compelling reasons for teaching a philosophy of science course to undergraduate life science students. The main reason is to help them understand that modern science is not based upon a single, consistent philosophical system; nor is it based upon common sense, or a method, set of rules or formulas that can be used to make unerring predictions. Rather, science is a dynamic process that is constantly being modified and refined to reflect and encompass an ever-expanding set of hypotheses, observations, and theories. To illustrate these points, we developed a course that examined the history and philosophical underpinnings of modern science, and we discussed famous experiments that challenged the prevailing norm and led to Kuhnian revolutions in scientific thought. Building upon this knowledge, students investigated how different philosophical systems address controversial social issues in the biological sciences. They examined the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools, the implications of legalized abortion and physician-assisted suicide, the potential impact of DNA fingerprinting on human rights and racism, the promise and pitfalls of stem cell research, and the neurobiological basis of consciousness and its relevance to mental health therapies and the animal rights movement. We believe undergraduate life science students should be exposed to these issues and have an opportunity to develop informed opinions about them before they graduate from college. Exploration of such topics will help them become better prepared for the inevitable public debates that they will face as science educators, researchers, and leaders of society.
PMCID: PMC3031121  PMID: 21289866
natural philosophy; idealistic philosophy; process philosophy; case studies; social issues; science education
4.  Objectivity and ethics in environmental health science. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2003;111(14):1809-1818.
During the past several decades, philosophers of science and scientists themselves have become increasingly aware of the complex ways in which scientific knowledge is shaped by its social context. This awareness has called into question traditional notions of objectivity. Working scientists need an understanding of their own practice that avoids the naïve myth that science can become objective by avoiding social influences as well as the reductionist view that its content is determined simply by economic interests. A nuanced perspective on this process can improve research ethics and increase the capacity of science to contribute to equitable public policy, especially in areas such as environmental and occupational health, which have direct implications for profits, regulation, legal responsibility, and social justice. I discuss research into health effects of the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, as an example of how scientific explanations are shaped by social concepts, norms, and preconceptions. I describe how a scientific practice that developed under the influence of medical and nuclear physics interacted with observations made by exposed community members to affect research questions, the interpretation of evidence, inferences about biological mechanisms in disease causation, and the use of evidence in litigation. By considering the history and philosophy of their disciplines, practicing researchers can increase the rigor, objectivity, and social responsibility of environmental health science.
PMCID: PMC1241729  PMID: 14594636
5.  From ‘Implications’ to ‘Dimensions’: Science, Medicine and Ethics in Society 
Health Care Analysis  2012;21(1):31-42.
Much bioethical scholarship is concerned with the social, legal and philosophical implications of new and emerging science and medicine, as well as with the processes of research that under-gird these innovations. Science and technology studies (STS), and the related and interpenetrating disciplines of anthropology and sociology, have also explored what novel technoscience might imply for society, and how the social is constitutive of scientific knowledge and technological artefacts. More recently, social scientists have interrogated the emergence of ethical issues: they have documented how particular matters come to be regarded as in some way to do with ‘ethics’, and how this in turn enjoins particular types of social action. In this paper, I will discuss some of this and other STS (and STS-inflected) literature and reflect on how it might complement more ‘traditional’ modes of bioethical enquiry. I argue that STS might (1) cast new light on current bioethical issues, (2) direct the gaze of bioethicists towards matters that may previously have escaped their attention, and (3) indicate the import not only of the ethical implications of biomedical innovation, but also how these innovative and other processes feature ethics as a dimension of everyday laboratory and clinical work. In sum, engagements between STS and bioethics are increasingly important in order to understand and manage the complex dynamics between science, medicine and ethics in society.
PMCID: PMC3555237  PMID: 22948440
Biomedical technology; Biomedicine; Empirical bioethics; Innovation; Science and technology studies; Sociology of bioethics
Journal of medical ethics  2010;36(10):10.1136/jme.2009.035220.
A curriculum was designed to shape biomedical graduate students into researchers with a high commitment to professionalism and social responsibility, and to provide students with tools to navigate the complex, rapidly evolving academic and societal environments with a strong ethical commitment. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy was chosen because it is active, learner-centered, and focuses on skill and process development. Additionally, the small group format provides a high degree of socialization around professional norms. Two courses were developed.
Scientific Professionalism
Scientific Integrity addressed discipline-specific and broad professional norms and obligations for the ethical practice of science and responsible conduct of research (RCR).
Scientific Professionalism
Bioethics and Social Responsibility focused on current ethical and bioethical issues within the scientific profession and implications of research for society. Each small-group session examined case scenarios that included: (1) learning objectives for professional norms and obligations; (2) key ethical issues and philosophies within each topic area; (3) one or more of the RCR instructional areas; and (4) at least one type of moral reflection. Cases went beyond covering overt research misconduct to emphasize professional standards, obligations, and underlying philosophies for the ethical practice of science, competing interests of stakeholders, and oversight of science (internal and external). To our knowledge this was the first use of PBL to teach scientific integrity and ethics. Both faculty and students at Wake Forest endorsed the orientation of professionalism, active learning, and acquiring skills in contrast to a compliance-based approach that emphasizes learning rules and regulations.
PMCID: PMC3809997  PMID: 20797979
7.  (The Ethics of) Teaching Science and Ethics: A Collaborative Proposal 
I offer a normative argument for a collaborative approach to teaching ethical issues in the sciences. Teaching science ethics requires expertise in at least two knowledge domains—the relevant science(s) and philosophical ethics. Accomplishing the aims of ethics education, while ensuring that science ethics discussions remain grounded in the best empirical science, can generally best be done through collaboration between a scientist and an ethicist. Ethics as a discipline is in danger of being misrepresented or distorted if presented by someone who lacks appropriate disciplinary training and experience. While there are exceptions, I take philosophy to be the most appropriate disciplinary domain in which to gain training in ethics teaching. Science students, who must be prepared to engage with many science ethics issues, are poorly served if their education includes a misrepresentation of ethics or specific issues. Students are less well prepared to engage specific issues in science ethics if they lack an appreciation of the resources the discipline of ethics provides. My collaborative proposal looks at a variety of ways scientists and ethicists might collaborate in the classroom to foster good science ethics education.
PMCID: PMC4278462  PMID: 25574263
8.  Bioethics of life programs: Taking seriously moral pluralism in clinical settings 
European Journal of Medical Research  2010;15(Suppl 2):98-101.
In the more and more globalized world, the experience of moral pluralism (often related to, or based upon, religious pluralism) has become a common issue which ethical importance is undeniable. Potential conflicts between patients' and therapeutic teams' moral views and between moral beliefs of the particular member of this team are being resolved in the light of bioethical theories, among which principlism remains the mainstream approach to biomedical ethics. The question arises, however, whether this approach, in itself, as being strictly bound to the specific and distinct American philosophical tradition, is to be considered the tool for so called 'moral imperialism'. Also architectures of principlism, in particular by elaborating the concept of common morality, defend the applicability of their theory to the pluralistic settings, it should be emphasized that the idea that some norms and standards of moral character are shared by all morally serious people in every culture has attracted criticism both from empirical as well as theoretical backgrounds.
This paper aims at reconsidering principlism so that it would be more suitable for resolving moral dilemma in ethically pluralistic clinical settings.
Lakatos' sophisticated methodological falsification is used into two different ways: (1) to construct a concept of 'life programs' and (2) to confront a newly elaborated ethical theory with principlism. The reflection is limited to the norms related to the key issue in clinical ethics, i.e., respecting the patient's autonomy.
The concepts of common morality and particular moralities are interpreted (in the light of Lakatos' philosophy of sciences) as 'hard core' and 'protective belt' of life programs, respectively. Accepting diversity of research programs, Lakatos maintains the idea of the objectivity of truth. Analogously, the plurality of life programs does not put into question the objectivity of moral values. The plurality of moral norms not only respects the objectivity of the good, but also can be seen as a condition sine qua non of such objectivity in the changing socio-historical context of doctor-patient relationship.
The life program approach to bioethics and clinical ethics in particular, can be seen as a form of widening of principlism. This new approach, being non-relativistic, is at the same time sensitive to moral pluralism experienced in everyday medical practice.
PMCID: PMC4360374  PMID: 21147632
principlism; common morality; pluralism; life programs bioethics
9.  Bridging the Gap between Philosophers of Mind and Brain Researchers: The Example of Addiction ** 
Mens Sana Monographs  2011;9(1):193-201.
Philosophers and psychologists have long tried to understand people’s irrational behaviour through concepts such as weakness of will, compulsion and addiction. The scientific basis of the project has been greatly enhanced by advances in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. However, some philosophers have also been critical of the more general conclusions drawn by the scientists. This is especially true when scientific researchers start making claims that go to philosophical issues, such as free will and responsibility. Conversely, some scientists have been critical of philosophical approaches for not understanding the results of recent research. I examined some of the recent history of scientific claims about addiction, and the rise of the claims from scientists to have shown that addiction is a brain disease and that addictive behaviour is compulsive. Given the well-confirmed evidence that addicts can modulate their behaviour in response to rewards, punishments and context, it is clear that according to normal definitions of compulsivity the behaviour of addicts is not typically compulsive, suggesting that neuroscientists are making an error in their interpretation of data. Since philosophers have expertise in making distinctions between different kinds of action and categorising them as free, weak-willed and compulsive, we will achieve a better interpretation of the neuroscience of addiction when taking this philosophical work into account. Conversely, given the status of science in the modern world, philosophers have to grapple with the latest neuroscientific discoveries and show the compatibility of their philosophical theories with the data for their approaches to maintain credibility.
PMCID: PMC3115288  PMID: 21694970
Addiction; Action theory; Compulsion; Philosophy; Selfcontrol
10.  Notes on a Few Issues in the Philosophy of Psychiatry* 
Mens Sana Monographs  2009;7(1):128-183.
The first part called the Preamble tackles: (a) the issues of silence and speech, and life and disease; (b) whether we need to know some or all of the truth, and how are exact science and philosophical reason related; (c) the phenomenon of Why, How, and What; (d) how are mind and brain related; (e) what is robust eclecticism, empirical/scientific enquiry, replicability/refutability, and the role of diagnosis and medical model in psychiatry; (f) bioethics and the four principles of beneficence, non-malfeasance, autonomy, and justice; (g) the four concepts of disease, illness, sickness, and disorder; how confusion is confounded by these concepts but clarity is imperative if we want to make sense out of them; and how psychiatry is an interim medical discipline.
The second part called The Issues deals with: (a) the concepts of nature and nurture; the biological and the psychosocial; and psychiatric disease and brain pathophysiology; (b) biology, Freud and the reinvention of psychiatry; (c) critics of psychiatry, mind-body problem and paradigm shifts in psychiatry; (d) the biological, the psychoanalytic, the psychosocial and the cognitive; (e) the issues of clarity, reductionism, and integration; (f) what are the fool-proof criteria, which are false leads, and what is the need for questioning assumptions in psychiatry.
The third part is called Psychiatric Disorder, Psychiatric Ethics, and Psychiatry Connected Disciplines. It includes topics like (a) psychiatric disorder, mental health, and mental phenomena; (b) issues in psychiatric ethics; (c) social psychiatry, liaison psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, forensic psychiatry, and neuropsychiatry.
The fourth part is called Antipsychiatry, Blunting Creativity, etc. It includes topics like (a) antipsychiatry revisited; (b) basic arguments of antipsychiatry, Szasz, etc.; (c) psychiatric classification and value judgment; (d) conformity, labeling, and blunting creativity.
The fifth part is called The Role of Philosophy, Religion, and Spirituality in Psychiatry. It includes topics like (a) relevance of philosophy to psychiatry; (b) psychiatry, religion, spirituality, and culture; (c) ancient Indian concepts and contemporary psychiatry; (d) Indian holism and Western reductionism; (e) science, humanism, and the nomothetic-idiographic orientation.
The last part, called Final Goal, talks of the need for a grand unified theory.
The whole discussion is put in the form of refutable points.
PMCID: PMC3151447  PMID: 21836785
Why, How And What; Eclecticism; Diagnosis And Medical Model In Psychiatry; Bioethics; Disease, Illness, Sickness And Disorder; Biological And Psychosocial; Critics Of Psychiatry; Mind-Body Problem And Paradigm Shifts In Psychiatry; Psychiatric Ethics; Social Psychiatry; Liaison Psychiatry; Psychosomatic Medicine; Forensic Psychiatry And Neuropsychiatry; Antipsychiatry; Blunting Creativity; Psychiatry Religion Spirituality And Culture; Ancient Indian Concepts; Science Humanism And The Nomothetic-Idiographic Orientation; Grand Unified Theory
11.  The Relationship of Previous Training and Experience of Journal Peer Reviewers to Subsequent Review Quality 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e40.
Peer review is considered crucial to the selection and publication of quality science, but very little is known about the previous experiences and training that might identify high-quality peer reviewers. The reviewer selection processes of most journals, and thus the qualifications of their reviewers, are ill defined. More objective selection of peer reviewers might improve the journal peer review process and thus the quality of published science.
Methods and Findings
306 experienced reviewers (71% of all those associated with a specialty journal) completed a survey of past training and experiences postulated to improve peer review skills. Reviewers performed 2,856 reviews of 1,484 separate manuscripts during a four-year study period, all prospectively rated on a standardized quality scale by editors. Multivariable analysis revealed that most variables, including academic rank, formal training in critical appraisal or statistics, or status as principal investigator of a grant, failed to predict performance of higher-quality reviews. The only significant predictors of quality were working in a university-operated hospital versus other teaching environment and relative youth (under ten years of experience after finishing training). Being on an editorial board and doing formal grant (study section) review were each predictors for only one of our two comparisons. However, the predictive power of all variables was weak.
Our study confirms that there are no easily identifiable types of formal training or experience that predict reviewer performance. Skill in scientific peer review may be as ill defined and hard to impart as is “common sense.” Without a better understanding of those skills, it seems unlikely journals and editors will be successful in systematically improving their selection of reviewers. This inability to predict performance makes it imperative that all but the smallest journals implement routine review ratings systems to routinely monitor the quality of their reviews (and thus the quality of the science they publish).
A survey of experienced reviewers, asked about training they had received in peer review, found there are no easily identifiable types of formal training and experience that predict reviewer performance.
Editors' Summary
When medical researchers have concluded their research and written it up, the next step is to get it published as an article in a journal, so that the findings can be circulated widely. These published findings help determine subsequent research and clinical use. The editors of reputable journals, including PLoS Medicine, have to decide whether the articles sent to them are of good quality and accurate and whether they will be of interest to the readers of their journal. To do this they need to obtain specialist advice, so they contact experts in the topic of the research article and ask them to write reports. This is the process of scientific peer review, and the experts who write such reports are known as “peer reviewers.” Although the editors make the final decision, the advice and criticism of these peer reviewers to the editors is essential in making decisions on publication, and usually in requiring authors to make changes to their manuscript. The contribution that peer reviewers have made to the article by the time it is finally published may, therefore, be quite considerable.
Although peer review is accepted as a key part of the process for the publishing of medical research, many people have argued that there are flaws in the system. For example, there may be an element of luck involved; one author might find their paper being reviewed by a reviewer who is biased against the approach they have adopted or who is a very critical person by nature, and another author may have the good fortune to have their work considered by someone who is much more favorably disposed toward their work. Some reviewers are more knowledgeable and thorough in their work than others. The editors of medical journals try to take in account such biases and quality factors in their choice of peer reviewers or when assessing the reviews. Some journals have run training courses for experts who review for them regularly to try to make the standard of peer review as high as possible.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is hard for journal editors to know who will make a good peer reviewer, and there is no proven system for choosing them. The authors of this study wanted to identify the previous experiences and training that make up the background of good peer reviewers and compare them with the quality of the reviews provided. This would help journal editors select good people for the task in future, and as a result will affect the quality of science they publish for readers, including other researchers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors contacted all the regular reviewers from one specialist journal (Annals of Emergency Medicine). A total of 306 of these experienced reviewers (71% of all those associated with the journal) completed a survey of past training and experiences that might be expected to improve peer review skills. These reviewers had done 2,856 reviews of 1,484 separate manuscripts during a four-year study period, and during this time the quality of the reviews had been rated by the journal's editors. Surprisingly, most variables, including academic rank, formal training in critical appraisal or statistics, or status as principal investigator of a grant, failed to predict performance of higher-quality reviews. The only significant predictors of quality were working in a university-operated hospital versus other teaching environment and relative youth (under ten years of experience after finishing training), and even these were only weak predictors.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggest that there are no easily identifiable types of formal training or experience that predict peer reviewer performance, although it is clear that some reviewers (and reviews) are better than others. The authors suggest that it is essential therefore that journals routinely monitor the quality of reviews submitted to them to ensure they are getting good advice (a practice that is not universal).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• WAME is an association of editors from many countries who seek to foster international cooperation among editors of peer-reviewed medical journals
• The Fifth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication is one of a series of conferences on peer review
• The PLoS Medicine guidelines for reviewers outline what we look for in a review
• The Council of Science Editors promotes ethical scientific publishing practices
• An editorial also published in this issue of PLoS Medicine discusses the peer review process further
PMCID: PMC1796627  PMID: 17411314
12.  On identity: from a philosophical point of view 
The term “identity” has a much longer tradition in Western philosophy than in psychology. However, the philosophical discourse addresses very different meanings of the term, which should be distinguished to avoid misunderstandings, but also to sharpen the key meanings of the term in psychological contexts. These crucial points in the philosophical concepts of identity in the sense of singularity, individuality, or self-sameness may structure the ongoing discussion on identity in psychiatric diagnoses (as in DSM-5, Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment, this issue, 2013), in psychology, psychoanalysis, but also neuroscience and neurophilosophy (Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment, this issue, 2013).
The concept of identity is subjected to a systematic philosophical analysis following some milestones in its history to provide a background for recent discussions on identity in psychiatry and psychology.
The article focuses first on the philosophical core distinctions of identity in the different meanings to be addressed, second, briefly on some of the diverse psychological histories of the concept in the second half of the 20th century. Finally some reflections are presented on borderline personality disorder, considered as a mental disorder with a disturbance or diffusion of identity as core feature, and briefly on a newly developed instrument assessing identity development and identity diffusion in adolescence, the AIDA that is also presented in the special issue of this journal (Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment, this issue, 2013).
As a conclusion, different points of view concerning identity are summarized in respect to treatment planning, and different levels of description of identity in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and social science and personality psychology are outlined.
PMCID: PMC3751052  PMID: 23902741
Identity; Individuality; Self; Self-sameness; Identity disturbance; Identity diffusion; Borderline personality disorder
13.  A survey of scientific production and collaboration rate among of medical library and information sciences in ISI, scopus and Pubmed databases during 2001-2010 
Research is essential for development. In other words, scientific development of each country can be evaluated by researchers’ scientific production. Understanding and assessing the activities of researchers for planning and policy making is essential. The significance of collaboration in the production of scientific publications in today's complex world where technology is everything is very apparent. Scientists realized that in order to get their work wildly used and cited to by experts, they must collaborate. The collaboration among researchers results in the development of scientific knowledge and hence, attainment of wider information. The main objective of this research is to survey scientific production and collaboration rate in philosophy and theoretical bases of medical library and information sciences in ISI, SCOPUS, and Pubmed databases during 2001-2010.
Materials and Methods:
This is a descriptive survey and scientometrics methods were used for this research. Then data gathered via check list and analyzed by the SPSS software. Collaboration rate was calculated according to the formula.
Among the 294 related abstracts about philosophy, and theoretical bases of medical library and information science in ISI, SCOPUS, and Pubmed databases during 2001-2010, the year 2007 with 45 articles has the most and the year 2003 with 16 articles has the least number of related collaborative articles in this scope. “B. Hjorland” with eight collaborative articles had the most one among Library and Information Sciences (LIS) professionals in ISI, SCOPUS, and Pubmed. Journal of Documentation with 29 articles and 12 collaborative articles had the most related articles. Medical library and information science challenges with 150 articles had first place in number of articles. Results also show that the most elaborative country in terms of collaboration point of view and number of articles was US. “University of Washington” and “University Western Ontario” are the most elaborative affiliation from a collaboration point.
The average collaboration rate between researchers in this field during the years studied is 0.25. The most completive reviewed articles are single authors that included 60.54% of the whole articles. Only 30.46% of articles were provided with two or more than two authors.
PMCID: PMC3826017  PMID: 24251283
Collaboration; collaboration rate; ISI databases; medical library and information science; Pubmed databases; scientometrics; SCOPUS databases
14.  Bioethics Science: Is it? 
Both western and eastern civilizations have linked moral teaching with theology followed by philosophy. New-knowledge-seekers about natural world, were called ‘natural philosophers’. There was a paradigm shift during industrial revolution in western world which culminated in modern science. The word “scientist” was coined during the 19th century. The paper examines whether natural philosophers could be called ‘scientists’? A short history of philosophical paradigm shift is given.
Although written moral and “ethical principles” were in vogue from the time of Hammurabi (1750–1795 BC), the phenomenon of bioethics is very recent. Bioethics is a bridge among different sciences and a bridge to the future. The question is: Is bioethics, by itself, science? The present paper is concerned with the quality of bioethics and about the nature of science during the next 30–50 years.
Science is value-free but bioethics is value-loaded. Science does not proclaim any value whereas bioethics underlines the moral life and its value to survive. The paper examines two issues: Can science be bioethics-friendly? and (ii) Can bioethics be science-friendly? It appears that both science and bioethics are incompatible. We need to develop a new system of knowledge to include/infuse the bioethical-notion of values in (into) science. Such a move may necessitate the development of an alternate but new model. Bioethics is not a science-discipline. A new term to replace science is needed. Elevating bioethics as an academic science may create job openings in India.
PMCID: PMC3713923  PMID: 23908732
Science; Scientists; Bioethics; Immoral sciences; Evolutionary ethics; morals
15.  A Brief Philosophical Encounter with Science and Medicine  
We show a lot of respect for science today. To back up our claims, we tend to appeal to scientific methods. It seems that we all agree that these methods are effective for gaining the truth. We can ask why science has its special status as a supplier of knowledge about our external world and our bodies. Of course, one should not always trust what scientists say. Nonetheless, epistemological justification of scientific claims is really a big project for philosophers of science. Philosophers of science are interested in knowing how science proves what it does claim and why it gives us good reasons to take these claims seriously. These questions are epistemological questions. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy which deals with knowledge claims and justification. Besides epistemological questions, metaphysical and ethical issues in science are worthy of philosophical scrutiny. This paper gives a short survey of these intellectually demanding issues.
PMCID: PMC3937912  PMID: 24596845
Philosophy; Medicine; Science
16.  Major Challenges for the Modern Chemistry in Particular and Science in General 
Foundations of science  2010;15(1):303-344.
In the past few hundred years, science has exerted an enormous influence on the way the world appears to human observers. Despite phenomenal accomplishments of science, science nowadays faces numerous challenges that threaten its continued success. As scientific inventions become embedded within human societies, the challenges are further multiplied. In this critical review, some of the critical challenges for the field of modern chemistry are discussed, including: (a) interlinking theoretical knowledge and experimental approaches; (b) implementing the principles of sustainability at the roots of the chemical design; (c) defining science from a philosophical perspective that acknowledges both pragmatic and realistic aspects thereof; (d) instigating interdisciplinary research; (e) learning to recognize and appreciate the aesthetic aspects of scientific knowledge and methodology, and promote truly inspiring education in chemistry. In the conclusion, I recapitulate that the evolution of human knowledge inherently depends upon our ability to adopt creative problem-solving attitudes, and that challenges will always be present within the scope of scientific interests.
PMCID: PMC3898875  PMID: 24465151
Philosophy of Chemistry; Pragmatism; Reductionism; Sustainability; Systems science
17.  Humanity at the Crossroads: Does Sri Aurobindo Offer an Alternative?* 
Mens Sana Monographs  2009;7(1):110-127.
In the light of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, this paper looks into some of the problems of contemporary man as an individual, a member of society, a citizen of his country, a component of this world, and of nature itself. Concepts like Science; Nature,;Matter; Mental Being; Mana-purusa; Prana-purusa; Citta-purusa; Nation-ego and Nation-soul; True and False Subjectivism; World-state and World-union; Religion of Humanism are the focus of this paper.
Beneath the diversity and uniqueness of the different elements in Nature there is an essential unity that not only allows for this diversity but even supports it. Nature is both a benefactor and a force: a benefactor, because it acts to carry out the evolution of mankind; a force, because it also supplies the necessary energy and momentum to achieve it.
Natural calamities:
If mankind can quieten the tsunamis and cyclones and droughts and earthquakes that rage within, and behave with care and compassion towards Nature, not exploiting, denuding, or denigrating it, there is a strong possibility that Nature too will behave with equal care and compassion towards man and spare him the natural calamities than rend him asunder.
The limitation of science become obvious, according to Sri Aurobindo, when we realize that it has mastered knowledge of processes and helped in the creation of machinery but is ignorant of the foundations of being and, therefore, cannot perfect our nature or our life.
Science and philosophy:
The insights of philosophy could become heuristic and algorithmic models for scientific experimentation.
An interesting aspect of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is his acceptance of the reality of matter even while highlighting its inadequacies; the ultimate goal, according to him, is the divination of matter itself.
If the mana-purusa (mental being) were to log on to the genuine citta-purusa (psychic formation), without necessarily logging off from the prana-purusa (frontal formation), it may help quieten the turbulences within, which may be a prelude to the quietening of the disturbances without, whether it be physical maladies, cravings (for food, fame, fortune, etc.), destructive competitiveness; or wars, terrorism, ethnic conflicts, communal riots, and the other such social maladies that afflict mankind today.
Nation-ego (false subjectivism) and Nation-soul (true subjectivism):
Sri Aurobindo considers Nation-ego an example of false subjectivism, in which national identity and pride are stressed to prove one's superiority and suppress or exploit the rest. The Nation-soul, as an example of true subjectivism, attempts to capture one's traditional heritage and values in its pristine form, not as a reaction to hurts and angers or as compensation for real or imagined injuries or indignities of the past.
World-state (false subjectivism) and World-union (true subjectivism):
Similarly, a World-state founded upon the principle of centralization and uniformity, a mechanical and formal unity, is an example of false subjectivism, while a World-union founded upon the principle of liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity is an example of true subjectivism
Human actualization:
Even if two human beings are similar, in so far as they are human beings, there is so much diversity between them. Part of the movement towards human self-actualization lies in the fact that this diversity should not be forcibly curbed, as also the realization that beneath all that appears disparate there is an essential unity. Also, man is not the end product of evolution but an intermediate stage between the animal and the divine. Moreover, he is endowed with consciousness that enables him to cooperate with the forces of evolution and speed up and telescope the next stage of evolution.
PMCID: PMC3151446  PMID: 21836784
Science; Nature; Matter; Mental Being; Mana-purusa; Prana-purusa; Citta-purusa; Nation-ego and Nation-soul; True and False Subjectivism; World-state and World-union; Religion of Humanism
18.  Genomics Education for the Public: Perspectives of Genomic Researchers and ELSI Advisors 
Aims: For more than two decades genomic education of the public has been a significant challenge. As genomic information becomes integrated into daily life and routine clinical care, the need for public education is even more critical. We conducted a pilot study to learn how genomic researchers and ethical, legal, and social implications advisors who were affiliated with large-scale genomic variation studies have approached the issue of educating the public about genomics. Methods/Results: Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with researchers and advisors associated with the SNP/HAPMAP studies and the Cancer Genome Atlas Study. Respondents described approach(es) associated with educating the public about their study. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed by team review. Although few respondents described formal educational efforts, most provided recommendations for what should/could be done, emphasizing the need for an overarching entity(s) to take responsibility to lead the effort to educate the public. Opposing views were described related to: who this should be; the overall goal of the educational effort; and the educational approach. Four thematic areas emerged: What is the rationale for educating the public about genomics?; Who is the audience?; Who should be responsible for this effort?; and What should the content be? Policy issues associated with these themes included the need to agree on philosophical framework(s) to guide the rationale, content, and target audiences for education programs; coordinate previous/ongoing educational efforts; and develop a centralized knowledge base. Suggestions for next steps are presented. Conclusion: A complex interplay of philosophical, professional, and cultural issues can create impediments to genomic education of the public. Many challenges, however, can be addressed by agreement on a guiding philosophical framework(s) and identification of a responsible entity(s) to provide leadership for developing/overseeing an appropriate infrastructure to support the coordination/integration/sharing and evaluation of educational efforts, benefiting consumers and professionals.
PMCID: PMC3948600  PMID: 24495163
19.  Minimally invasive surgical procedures for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation 
In up to 30% of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery for herniated or protruded discs outcomes are judged unfavourable. Over the last decades this problem has stimulated the development of a number of minimally-invasive operative procedures. The aim is to relieve pressure from compromised nerve roots by mechanically removing, dissolving or evaporating disc material while leaving bony structures and surrounding tissues as intact as possible. In Germany, there is hardly any utilisation data for these new procedures – data files from the statutory health insurances demonstrate that about 5% of all lumbar disc surgeries are performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Their real proportion is thought to be much higher because many procedures are offered by private hospitals and surgeries and are paid by private health insurers or patients themselves. So far no comprehensive assessment comparing efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery to standard procedures (microdiscectomy, open discectomy) which could serve as a basis for coverage decisions, has been published in Germany.
Against this background the aim of the following assessment is:
Based on published scientific literature assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery compared to standard procedures. To identify and critically appraise studies comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures to that of standard procedures. If necessary identify research and evaluation needs and point out regulative needs within the German health care system. The assessment focusses on procedures that are used in elective lumbar disc surgery as alternative treatment options to microdiscectomy or open discectomy. Chemonucleolysis, percutaneous manual discectomy, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laserdiscectomy and endoscopic procedures accessing the disc by a posterolateral or posterior approach are included.
In order to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures as well as their economic implications systematic reviews of the literature are performed. A comprehensive search strategy is composed to search 23 electronic databases, among them MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Methodological quality of systematic reviews, HTA reports and primary research is assessed using checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Health Technology Assessment. Quality and transparency of cost analyses are documented using the quality and transparency catalogues of the working group. Study results are summarised in a qualitative manner. Due to the limited number and the low methodological quality of the studies it is not possible to conduct metaanalyses. In addition to the results of controlled trials results of recent case series are introduced and discussed.
The evidence-base to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery procedures is rather limited:
Percutaneous manual discectomy: Six case series (four after 1998)Automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy: Two RCT (one discontinued), twelve case series (one after 1998)Chemonucleolysis: Five RCT, five non-randomised controlled trials, eleven case seriesPercutaneous laserdiscectomy: One non-randomised controlled trial, 13 case series (eight after 1998)Endoscopic procedures: Three RCT, 21 case series (17 after 1998)
There are two economic analyses each retrieved for chemonucleolysis and automated percutaneous discectomy as well as one cost-minimisation analysis comparing costs of an endoscopic procedure to costs for open discectomy.
Among all minimally-invasive procedures chemonucleolysis is the only of which efficacy may be judged on the basis of results from high quality randomised controlled trials (RCT). Study results suggest that the procedure maybe (cost)effectively used as an intermediate therapeutical option between conservative and operative management of small lumbar disc herniations or protrusions causing sciatica. Two RCT comparing transforaminal endoscopic procedures with microdiscectomy in patients with sciatica and small non-sequestered disc herniations show comparable short and medium term overall success rates. Concerning speed of recovery and return to work a trend towards more favourable results for the endoscopic procedures is noted. It is doubtful though, whether these results from the eleven and five years old studies are still valid for the more advanced procedures used today. The only RCT comparing the results of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy to those of microdiscectomy showed clearly superior results of microdiscectomy. Furthermore, success rates of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy reported in the RCT (29%) differ extremely from success rates reported in case series (between 56% and 92%).
The literature search retrieves no controlled trials to assess efficacy and/or effectiveness of laser-discectomy, percutaneous manual discectomy or endoscopic procedures using a posterior approach in comparison to the standard procedures. Results from recent case series permit no assessment of efficacy, especially not in comparison to standard procedures. Due to highly selected patients, modi-fications of operative procedures, highly specialised surgical units and poorly standardised outcome assessment results of case series are highly variable, their generalisability is low.
The results of the five economical analyses are, due to conceptual and methodological problems, of no value for decision-making in the context of the German health care system.
Aside from low methodological study quality three conceptual problems complicate the interpretation of results.
Continuous further development of technologies leads to a diversity of procedures in use which prohibits generalisation of study results. However, diversity is noted not only for minimally-invasive procedures but also for the standard techniques against which the new developments are to be compared. The second problem refers to the heterogeneity of study populations. For most studies one common inclusion criterion was "persisting sciatica after a course of conservative treatment of variable duration". Differences among study populations are noted concerning results of imaging studies. Even within every group of minimally-invasive procedure, studies define their own in- and exclusion criteria which differ concerning degree of dislocation and sequestration of disc material. There is the non-standardised assessment of outcomes which are performed postoperatively after variable periods of time. Most studies report results in a dichotomous way as success or failure while the classification of a result is performed using a variety of different assessment instruments or procedures. Very often the global subjective judgement of results by patients or surgeons is reported. There are no scientific discussions whether these judgements are generalisable or comparable, especially among studies that are conducted under differing socio-cultural conditions. Taking into account the weak evidence-base for efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures it is not surprising that so far there are no dependable economic analyses.
Conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the present assessment refer in detail to the specified minimally-invasive procedures of lumbar disc surgery but they may also be considered exemplary for other fields where optimisation of results is attempted by technological development and widening of indications (e.g. total hip replacement).
Compared to standard technologies (open discectomy, microdiscectomy) and with the exception of chemonucleolysis, the developmental status of all other minimally-invasive procedures assessed must be termed experimental. To date there is no dependable evidence-base to recommend their use in routine clinical practice. To create such a dependable evidence-base further research in two directions is needed: a) The studies need to include adequate patient populations, use realistic controls (e.g. standard operative procedures or continued conservative care) and use standardised measurements of meaningful outcomes after adequate periods of time. b) Studies that are able to report effectiveness of the procedures under everyday practice conditions and furthermore have the potential to detect rare adverse effects are needed. In Sweden this type of data is yielded by national quality registries. On the one hand their data are used for quality improvement measures and on the other hand they allow comprehensive scientific evaluations. Since the year of 2000 a continuous rise in utilisation of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery is observed among statutory health insurers. Examples from other areas of innovative surgical technologies (e.g. robot assisted total hip replacement) indicate that the rise will probably continue - especially because there are no legal barriers to hinder introduction of innovative treatments into routine hospital care. Upon request by payers or providers the "Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss" may assess a treatments benefit, its necessity and cost-effectiveness as a prerequisite for coverage by the statutory health insurance. In the case of minimally-invasive disc surgery it would be advisable to examine the legal framework for covering procedures only if they are provided under evaluation conditions. While in Germany coverage under evaluation conditions is established practice in ambulatory health care only (“Modellvorhaben") examples from other European countries (Great Britain, Switzerland) demonstrate that it is also feasible for hospital based interventions. In order to assure patient protection and at the same time not hinder the further development of new and promising technologies provision under evaluation conditions could also be realised in the private health care market - although in this sector coverage is not by law linked to benefit, necessity and cost-effectiveness of an intervention.
PMCID: PMC3011322  PMID: 21289928
20.  Normative Ethics Does Not Need a Foundation: It Needs More Science 
Acta Biotheoretica  2010;59(1):29-51.
The impact of science on ethics forms since long the subject of intense debate. Although there is a growing consensus that science can describe morality and explain its evolutionary origins, there is less consensus about the ability of science to provide input to the normative domain of ethics. Whereas defenders of a scientific normative ethics appeal to naturalism, its critics either see the naturalistic fallacy committed or argue that the relevance of science to normative ethics remains undemonstrated. In this paper, we argue that current scientific normative ethicists commit no fallacy, that criticisms of scientific ethics contradict each other, and that scientific insights are relevant to normative inquiries by informing ethics about the options open to the ethical debate. Moreover, when conceiving normative ethics as being a nonfoundational ethics, science can be used to evaluate every possible norm. This stands in contrast to foundational ethics in which some norms remain beyond scientific inquiry. Finally, we state that a difference in conception of normative ethics underlies the disagreement between proponents and opponents of a scientific ethics. Our argument is based on and preceded by a reconsideration of the notions naturalistic fallacy and foundational ethics. This argument differs from previous work in scientific ethics: whereas before the philosophical project of naturalizing the normative has been stressed, here we focus on concrete consequences of biological findings for normative decisions or on the day-to-day normative relevance of these scientific insights.
PMCID: PMC3068523  PMID: 20407803
Science and ethics; Naturalistic ethics; Normative ethics; Naturalistic fallacy
21.  Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e5.
Industrial support of biomedical research may bias scientific conclusions, as demonstrated by recent analyses of pharmaceutical studies. However, this issue has not been systematically examined in the area of nutrition research. The purpose of this study is to characterize financial sponsorship of scientific articles addressing the health effects of three commonly consumed beverages, and to determine how sponsorship affects published conclusions.
Methods and Findings
Medline searches of worldwide literature were used to identify three article types (interventional studies, observational studies, and scientific reviews) about soft drinks, juice, and milk published between 1 January, 1999 and 31 December, 2003. Financial sponsorship and article conclusions were classified by independent groups of coinvestigators. The relationship between sponsorship and conclusions was explored by exact tests and regression analyses, controlling for covariates. 206 articles were included in the study, of which 111 declared financial sponsorship. Of these, 22% had all industry funding, 47% had no industry funding, and 32% had mixed funding. Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding.
Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.
In 111 scientific articles on nonalcoholic beverages, articles with all industry funding were more than 7 times more likely to have favorable conclusions compared with articles with no industry funding.
Editors' Summary
Much of the money available for doing medical research comes from companies, as opposed to government agencies or charities. There is some evidence that when a research study is sponsored by an organization that has a financial interest in the outcome, the study is more likely to produce results that favor the funder (this is called “sponsorship bias”). This phenomenon is worrying, because if our knowledge about effectiveness and safety of medicines is based on biased findings, patients could suffer. However, it is not clear whether sponsorship bias extends beyond research into drugs, but also affects other types of research that is in the public interest. For example, research into the health benefits, or otherwise, of different types of food and drink may affect government guidelines, regulations, and the behavior patterns of members of the public. Were sponsorship bias also to exist in this area of research, the health of the wider public could be affected.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is not a great deal of evidence about whether sponsorship bias affects nutritional research (scientific studies that look at the relationship between food and/or drink, and health or disease states). Therefore, the group of researchers here set out to collect information from published nutritional research papers, to see if the type of sponsorship for the research studies was in any way linked with whether the main conclusions were favorable or unfavorable to the sponsor.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The research study reported here used the scientific literature as a source of data. The researchers chose to examine one particular area of nutrition (nonalcoholic drinks including soft drinks, juices, and milk), so that their investigation would not be affected too much by variability between the different types of nutritional research. Using literature searches, the researchers identified all original research and scientific review articles published between January 1999 and December 2003 that examined soft drinks, juices, and milk; described research carried out in humans; and at the same time drew conclusions relevant to health or disease. Then, information from each published article was categorized: the conclusions were coded as either favorable, unfavorable, or neutral in relation to the health effects of the products being studied, and the article's funding was coded as either all industry (ie, food/drinks companies), no industry, or mixed. 206 published articles were analyzed and only 54% declared funding. The researchers found that, overall, there was a strong association between the type of funding available for these articles and the conclusions that were drawn. Articles sponsored exclusively by food/drinks companies were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to the financial interests of the sponsoring company than articles which were not sponsored by food or drinks companies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that a high potential for bias exists in research into the health benefits or harms of nonalcoholic drinks. It is not clear from this research study why or how this bias comes about, but there are many different mechanisms that might cause it. The researchers suggest that certain initiatives might help to reduce bias, for example, increasing independent funding of nutrition research.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Conflict of Interest definition from Wikipedia (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides standard guidelines for practices at medical journals, including a section on sponsorship, authorship, and accountability
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for journal editors to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record, and it provides guidelines for editors and case studies for reference
The Good Publication Practice guidelines outline standards for responsible publication of research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
PMCID: PMC1764435  PMID: 17214504
22.  Bibliometric Evidence for a Hierarchy of the Sciences 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66938.
The hypothesis of a Hierarchy of the Sciences, first formulated in the 19th century, predicts that, moving from simple and general phenomena (e.g. particle dynamics) to complex and particular (e.g. human behaviour), researchers lose ability to reach theoretical and methodological consensus. This hypothesis places each field of research along a continuum of complexity and “softness”, with profound implications for our understanding of scientific knowledge. Today, however, the idea is still unproven and philosophically overlooked, too often confused with simplistic dichotomies that contrast natural and social sciences, or science and the humanities. Empirical tests of the hypothesis have usually compared few fields and this, combined with other limitations, makes their results contradictory and inconclusive. We verified whether discipline characteristics reflect a hierarchy, a dichotomy or neither, by sampling nearly 29,000 papers published contemporaneously in 12 disciplines and measuring a set of parameters hypothesised to reflect theoretical and methodological consensus. The biological sciences had in most cases intermediate values between the physical and the social, with bio-molecular disciplines appearing harder than zoology, botany or ecology. In multivariable analyses, most of these parameters were independent predictors of the hierarchy, even when mathematics and the humanities were included. These results support a “gradualist” view of scientific knowledge, suggesting that the Hierarchy of the Sciences provides the best rational framework to understand disciplines' diversity. A deeper grasp of the relationship between subject matter's complexity and consensus could have profound implications for how we interpret, publish, popularize and administer scientific research.
PMCID: PMC3694152  PMID: 23840557
23.  Facilitating the Recruitment of Minority Ethnic People into Research: Qualitative Case Study of South Asians and Asthma 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000148.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report on a qualitative study in the US and the UK to investigate ways to bolster recruitment of South Asians into asthma studies, including making inclusion of diverse populations mandatory.
There is international interest in enhancing recruitment of minority ethnic people into research, particularly in disease areas with substantial ethnic inequalities. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that UK South Asians are at three times increased risk of hospitalisation for asthma when compared to white Europeans. US asthma trials are far more likely to report enrolling minority ethnic people into studies than those conducted in Europe. We investigated approaches to bolster recruitment of South Asians into UK asthma studies through qualitative research with US and UK researchers, and UK community leaders.
Methods and Findings
Interviews were conducted with 36 researchers (19 UK and 17 US) from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and ten community leaders from a range of ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds, followed by self-completion questionnaires. Interviews were digitally recorded, translated where necessary, and transcribed. The Framework approach was used for analysis. Barriers to ethnic minority participation revolved around five key themes: (i) researchers' own attitudes, which ranged from empathy to antipathy to (in a minority of cases) misgivings about the scientific importance of the question under study; (ii) stereotypes and prejudices about the difficulties in engaging with minority ethnic populations; (iii) the logistical challenges posed by language, cultural differences, and research costs set against the need to demonstrate value for money; (iv) the unique contexts of the two countries; and (v) poorly developed understanding amongst some minority ethnic leaders of what research entails and aims to achieve. US researchers were considerably more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities, which appeared to a large extent to reflect the longer-term impact of the National Institutes of Health's requirement to include minority ethnic people.
Most researchers and community leaders view the broadening of participation in research as important and are reasonably optimistic about the feasibility of recruiting South Asians into asthma studies provided that the barriers can be overcome. Suggested strategies for improving recruitment in the UK included a considerably improved support structure to provide academics with essential contextual information (e.g., languages of particular importance and contact with local gatekeepers), and the need to ensure that care is taken to engage with the minority ethnic communities in ways that are both culturally appropriate and sustainable; ensuring reciprocal benefits was seen as one key way of avoiding gatekeeper fatigue. Although voluntary measures to encourage researchers may have some impact, greater impact might be achieved if UK funding bodies followed the lead of the US National Institutes of Health requiring recruitment of ethnic minorities. Such a move is, however, likely in the short- to medium-term, to prove unpopular with many UK academics because of the added “hassle” factor in engaging with more diverse populations than many have hitherto been accustomed to.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In an ideal world, everyone would have the same access to health care and the same health outcomes (responses to health interventions). However, health inequalities—gaps in health care and in health between different parts of the population—exist in many countries. In particular, people belonging to ethnic minorities in the UK, the US, and elsewhere have poorer health outcomes for several conditions than people belonging to the ethnic majority (ethnicity is defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin). For example, in the UK, people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent (also known as South Asians and comprising in the main of people of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin) are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital for asthma as white Europeans. The reasons underpinning ethnic health inequalities are complex. Some inequalities may reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—some ethnic minorities may inherit genes that alter their susceptibility to a specific disease. Other ethnic health inequalities may arise because of differences in socioeconomic status or because different cultural traditions affect the uptake of health care services.
Why Was This Study Done?
Minority ethnic groups are often under-represented in health research, which could limit the generalizability of research findings. That is, an asthma treatment that works well in a trial where all the participants are white Europeans might not be suitable for South Asians. Clinicians might nevertheless use the treatment in all their patients irrespective of their ethnicity and thus inadvertently increase ethnic health inequality. So, how can ethnic minorities be encouraged to enroll into research studies? In this qualitative study, the investigators try to answer this question by talking to US and UK asthma researchers and UK community leaders about how they feel about enrolling ethnic minorities into research studies. The investigators chose to compare the feelings of US and UK asthma researchers because minority ethnic people are more likely to enroll into US asthma studies than into UK studies, possibly because the US National Institute of Health's (NIH) Revitalization Act 1993 mandates that all NIH-funded clinical research must include people from ethnic minority groups; there is no similar mandatory policy in the UK.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The investigators interviewed 16 UK and 17 US asthma researchers and three UK social researchers with experience of working with ethnic minorities. They also interviewed ten community leaders from diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds. They then analyzed the interviews using the “Framework” approach, an analytical method in which qualitative data are classified and organized according to key themes and then interpreted. By comparing the data from the UK and US researchers, the investigators identified several barriers to ethnic minority participation in health research including: the attitudes of researchers towards the scientific importance of recruiting ethnic minority people into health research studies; prejudices about the difficulties of including ethnic minorities in health research; and the logistical challenges posed by language and cultural differences. In general, the US researchers were more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities in health research. Finally, the investigators found that some community leaders had a poor understanding of what research entails and about its aims.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a large gap between US and UK researchers in terms of policy, attitudes, practices, and experiences in relation to including ethnic minorities in asthma research. However, they also suggest that most UK researchers and community leaders believe that it is both important and feasible to increase the participation of South Asians in asthma studies. Although some of these findings may have been affected by the study participants sometimes feeling obliged to give “politically correct” answers, these findings are likely to be generalizable to other diseases and to other parts of Europe. Given their findings, the researchers warn that a voluntary code of practice that encourages the recruitment of ethnic minority people into health research studies is unlikely to be successful. Instead, they suggest, the best way to increase the representation of ethnic minority people in health research in the UK might be to follow the US lead and introduce a policy that requires their inclusion in such research.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Families USA, a US nonprofit organization that campaigns for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, has information about many aspects of minority health in the US, including an interactive game about minority health issues
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a section on minority health
The UK Department of Health provides information on health inequalities and a recent report on the experiences of patients in Black and minority ethnic groups
The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology also has a short article on ethnicity and health
Information on the NIH Revitalization Act 1993 is available
NHS Evidences Ethnicity and Health has a variety of policy, clinical, and research resources on ethnicity and health
PMCID: PMC2752116  PMID: 19823568
24.  Global report on preterm birth and stillbirth (6 of 7): ethical considerations 
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth  2010;10(Suppl 1):S6.
Despite the substantial global burden of preterm and stillbirth, little attention has been given to the ethical considerations related to research and interventions in the global context. Ethical dilemmas surrounding reproductive decisions and the care of preterm newborns impact the delivery of interventions, and are not well understood in low-resource settings. Issues such as how to address the moral and cultural attitudes surrounding stillbirths, have cross-cutting implications for global visibility of the disease burden. This analysis identifies ethical issues impacting definitions, discovery, development, and delivery of effective interventions to decrease the global burden of preterm birth and stillbirth.
This review is based on a comprehensive literature review; an ethical analysis of other articles within this global report; and discussions with GAPPS's Scientific Advisory Council, team of international investigators, and a community of international experts on maternal, newborn, and child health and bioethics from the 2009 International Conference on Prematurity and Stillbirth. The literature review includes articles in PubMed, Academic Search Complete (EBSCO), and Philosopher's Index with a range of 1995-2008.
Advancements in discovery science relating to preterm birth and stillbirth require careful consideration in the design and use of repositories containing maternal specimens and data. Equally important is the need to improve clinical translation from basic science research to delivery of interventions, and to ensure global needs inform discovery science agenda-setting. Ethical issues in the development of interventions include a need to balance immediate versus long-term impacts—such as caring for preterm newborns rather than preventing preterm births. The delivery of interventions must address: women's health disparities as determinants of preterm birth and stillbirth; improving measurements of impact on equity in coverage; balancing maternal and newborn outcomes in choosing interventions; and understanding the personal and cross-cultural experiences of preterm birth and stillbirth among women, families and communities.
Efforts to improve visibility, funding, research and the successful delivery of interventions for preterm birth and stillbirth face a number of ethical concerns. Thoughtful input from those in health policy, bioethics and international research ethics helped shape an interdisciplinary global action agenda to prevent preterm birth and stillbirth.
PMCID: PMC2841776  PMID: 20233387
25.  Intervention, integration and translation in obesity research: Genetic, developmental and metaorganismal approaches 
Obesity is the focus of multiple lines of inquiry that have -- together and separately -- produced many deep insights into the physiology of weight gain and maintenance. We examine three such streams of research and show how they are oriented to obesity intervention through multilevel integrated approaches. The first research programme is concerned with the genetics and biochemistry of fat production, and it links metabolism, physiology, endocrinology and neurochemistry. The second account of obesity is developmental and draws together epigenetic and environmental explanations that can be embedded in an evolutionary framework. The third line of research focuses on the role of gut microbes in the production of obesity, and how microbial activities interact with host genetics, development and metabolism. These interwoven explanatory strategies are driven by an orientation to intervention, both for experimental and therapeutic outcomes. We connect the integrative and intervention-oriented aspects of obesity research through a discussion of translation, broadening the concept to capture the dynamic, iterative processes of scientific practice and therapy development. This system-oriented analysis of obesity research expands the philosophical scrutiny of contemporary developments in the biosciences and biomedicine, and has the potential to enrich philosophy of science and medicine.
PMCID: PMC3037871  PMID: 21276254

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