5th Biennial Conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP) Aarhus 2015

Parallel Session 1F
Wednesday, 24 June 2015, 10:30–12:00 in Koll G
Session chair: Hasok Chang (University of Cambridge)
Death of the Scientific Author, Contributors Too
  • Barton Moffatt (Mississippi State University)


Authorship is a key concept in the system of scientific communication. It is the primary vehicle for determining professional credit and reward for scientific achievement. Authors are also the people held accountable when problems are found in research. There is growing concern about unethical authorship practices across all research domains, and professional associations and journal editors are creating and revising explicit authorship policies to guide researchers. Much of the difficulties surrounding authorship are due to the fact that authorship is both used to communicate within scientific communities and to serve as markers of productivity outside of those research communities. Often these functions are at cross-purposes.

Some scholars have proposed moving to a system that lists everyone’s contributions to a research project on each paper produced. There are several different contributorship proposals. In one, each author lists his or her contributions. In another, everyone’s contributions are listed even if they are not listed as authors, and still others propose to get rid of authors altogether, merely listing contributions. Many journals are now requiring that all authors list their contributions. The problem is that there is no evidence that requiring contributor listings has eliminated unethical authorship practices. Is it worth making researchers take extra time to specify contributions if they are not adding value by reducing undesirable behavior?

One reason why authorship guidelines are failing to achieve their moral purpose is that there is not a clear understanding of the pressures that lead to bad authorship practices. There is little discussion of the role authorship plays in the political economy of the research laboratory and whether the concept of authorship is still suited to play this role. Part of the problem is the mismatch between authorship and necessary scientific roles like getting research funding and doing the scut work. Many accounts of authorship do not grant authorship for those types of contributions, creating a situation where necessary jobs are unrewarded. In this paper, I argue that it is time to replace the category of author in favor of a system that allocates three types of credit: intellectual, labor and funding. Eliminating the category of author in favor of a credit model would have two main advantages. First, it would allow for credit to be given for different types of contribution in a way that is in accord with scientific practices. Second, it would be an improvement over the contributorship proposals because it allows each research group to define who should get credit on a project, which reduces the possibility of non-scientific institutions and actors not properly valuing research contributions.

Privacy, Informed Consent, and Participant Observation
  • Julie Zahle (University of Copenhagen)


One the one hand, it is widely agreed that the social researcher must make sure to respect the privacy of the individuals who form part of her study. On the other hand, not much attention has been paid to the notion of privacy in a research context and to the question of how exactly the researcher may ensure that she does not invade the privacy of the individuals she studies.

In this paper, I am concerned with the proposal that the social researcher may use the device of informed consent to ensure that the privacy of the individuals she studies is not invaded when she generates data about them. This suggestion is rarely examined in any detail. I do so while focusing on the social researcher who produces her data by carrying out participant observation. I argue that the use of informed consent does not suffice to protect individuals’ privacy: When carrying out participant observation, the social researcher must take further measures in order not to violate individuals’ privacy.

The paper falls in two parts. In part I, I distinguish between two forms of privacy, situational and informational privacy, and explicate how the social researcher may invade both these forms of privacy when carrying out participant observation. Further, I explain the idea of informed consent and show how it works to protect individuals’ situational and informational privacy. Finally, I point to some difficulties that the administration of informed consent, as a privacy protection device, may run into.

In part II, I examine the practice of carrying out participant observation with a view to determining whether the use of informed consent suffices to protect individuals’ situational and informational privacy. I point to three situations that very commonly occur once the social researcher has obtained the research participants’ informed consent and started carrying out participant observation:

  1. The social researcher changes, or considerably narrows down, her research question as she goes along producing her data.
  2. The social researcher produces data in situations, or collects information about matters, that do not obviously fall within the scope of the informed consent.
  3. The research participants get used to the social researcher’s presence, or they get to know her better and start trusting her with the result that they sometimes forget, or do not take it, that the social researcher is (also) producing data for her research.

In these common types of situation, I argue, having earlier obtained the research participants’ informed consent does not preclude their situational and/or informational privacy from being invaded. At the same time, I explicate what further measures the social researcher needs to take in order to ensure that she respects the research participants’ privacy. More specifically, I outline how she should make sure, in all three types of situation, that the individuals in question implicitly or explicitly accept her research activities.

Facing Animals
  • Sophia Efstathiou (Philosophy and Religious Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU, sophia.efstathiou@ntnu.no)


This paper explores animal research practices using the phenomenological notions of the ‘face’ and ‘animality’. Based on my ethnographic study of laboratory research using rat models, I argue that relating animal model results to humans relies not only on rational grounds to anthropomorphise those rats but also on the felt experience of the rats as animals with faces. Whether or not we want to “know” animals by looking at their faces, the possibility of so doing is implicated in our quest for knowledge through animal models. This makes our responsibilities to them as others with faces hard to escape, as Emanual Levinas discusses for the case of humans (Guenther 2007). Yet at the same time facing animals is managed through various, what I call, ‘technologies of effacement’ including laboratory attire, handling techniques, and processing rituals.

Following Merleau-Ponty, David Morris (2007) proposes that ‘animal faces’ are of special significance in the world as experienced by us, using our onto-logic as animals. Reading faces lets us recognize how we-each-other ‘are’, opening up a realm of invisible, mental or emotional ‘being’ to the realm of the visible, physical being. Faces are visible surfaces communicating what is internal or invisible. They are special surfaces that can manifest something inferred from the realm of the invisible. Morris juxtaposes looking at faces with looking at the internal workings or organs: even if we imagined ourselves having transparent skins, making all our internal processes seen, we would still need to look in each-others’ faces to say how we ‘are’.

I argue that knowing through animal research is inextricably tied up with the possibility of knowing animals through their ‘face’: understood as the surfaces facing us - faces and bodies. Experimental design in animal studies negotiates between conceiving of the animals as “faceless” expendable, laboratory material, bought, quality checked and discarded once used, and as animals we “face”, whose behaviours, pains and bodies we relate to ours. Even if experiments focus on aspects of an animal other than its face, animal experimentation involves encounters with the animals as others with faces and knowing the animals through their faces.

I examine how researchers negotiate the dual role of the animal as faceless and as an other with a face. Specifically I focus on the sacrifice stage of an osteoporosis study using ovariectomised rat models. During sacrifices the living animals waiting to be sacrificed are kept at a distance from the animal being sacrificed to prevent them from smelling the blood on the surgical table and becoming agitated. Manifestly it is the other animals that are to be protected through this decision. However it arguably keeping the living animals at a distance prevents human researchers from facing those animals. My results show that researchers get on with work more easily once they focus on their specific tasks, while emotions are harder to control when looking at the animals waiting to be sacrificed. Keeping living animals apart from animals under operation also means keeping humans from facing these other animals.

Animal experimentation aims to get at humanly relevant answers. However the categorical and felt alignment between rats and humans as animals with faces will by default raise ethical questions.


  • Guenther, L. (2007), “Le flair animal: Levinas and the Possibility of Animal Friendship” PhaenEx 2, no. 2: 216-238.
  • Morris, D. (2007), “Faces and the Invisible of the Visible: Toward an Animal Ontology” PhaenEx 2, no. 2: 124-169.