Article ID: CBB489482782

Is it possible to give scientific solutions to Grand Challenges? On the idea of grand challenges for life science research (2016)


This paper argues that challenges that are grand in scope such as “lifelong health and wellbeing”, “climate action”, or “food security” cannot be addressed through scientific research only. Indeed scientific research could inhibit addressing such challenges if scientific analysis constrains the multiple possible understandings of these challenges into already available scientific categories and concepts without translating between these and everyday concerns. This argument builds on work in philosophy of science and race to postulate a process through which non-scientific notions become part of science. My aim is to make this process available to scrutiny: what I call founding everyday ideas in science is both culturally and epistemologically conditioned. Founding transforms a common idea into one or more scientifically relevant ones, which can be articulated into descriptively thicker and evaluatively deflated terms and enable operationalisation and measurement. The risk of founding however is that it can invisibilise or exclude from realms of scientific scrutiny interpretations that are deemed irrelevant, uninteresting or nonsensical in the domain in question–but which may remain salient for addressing grand-in-scope challenges. The paper considers concepts of “wellbeing” in development economics versus in gerontology to illustrate this process.

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Authors & Contributors
Shapin, Steven B.
Blau, Herbert
Ceccarelli, Leah
Stygall, Gail
Whiting, Sarah M.
Burnett, Graham
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science
Kexue Jishu yu Bianzhengfa (Science, Technology, and Dialectics)
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science, Technology and Human Values
Rowman & Littlefield
Harvard University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Edward Elgar
Duke University Press
Sociology of knowledge
Science studies, theoretical works
Science and society
Philosophy of science
Social sciences
Merton, Robert K.
Barnes, Barry
Kuhn, Thomas S.
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
United States

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