HPS Students and Faculty Present at 27th Biennial PSA Meeting

Author: Holmes, Abigail

PSA 2020/2021 Flyer

The Notre Dame HPS program was well represented at the 27th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association in Baltimore, Maryland by three graduate students and one faculty member.

Hannah Rubin, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, presented her paper "Structural Causes of Citation Blindness." An abstract for her paper is given below:


Citation blindness refers to the observed phenomenon that underrepresented and minority groups are less likely to be cited. However, one limitation of empirical work on citation patterns is that it generally does not provide insight into the causes of citation blindness, but merely determines whether or not it exists. I will argue that at least some of the blindness is not due to individual biases, but rather due to the structure of academic communities.


HPS graduate student Abigail Holmes presented the paper "Symmetry and Detectability as Physical Concepts" on behalf of her co-authors Nicholas Teh, Sebastian Murgueitio Ramirez, Oliver Traldi, and Qiong Wu. An abstract for her paper is given below:


Recently, many philosophers have taken an interest in explaining the link between the symmetries of physical theories, and the putative "undetectability" of quantities that are variant under such symmetries. In this paper, we will examine David Wallace's (2019) explanation of this link, and clarify how his work is related to (i) the "undetectability" implicit in Galileo's ship, and (ii) the structure of Hamiltonian dynamics. We will then use the results of our investigation to assess Read and Molller-Nielsen's (2019) attempt to provide an "epistemic" definition of physical symmetries.


Char Brecevic, also an HPS graduate student, presented her paper "The Sex-Gender Distinction in Biomedical Research – A Response to Byrne and Bogardus." An abstract for her paper is given below:


Philosophers Alex Byrne and Tomás Bogardus have recently presented strong critiques of the sex/gender distinction, arguing that gender is a biological concept that is coextensive with sex. The questions to be asked, then, are whether or not a viable argument in favor of the sex/gender distinction can be put forth and, subsequently, whether medical researchers ought to maintain this commonly used distinction in practice. In this paper, I defend a positive answer to both questions.


A poster entitled "Applying Virtue Theory to Research Ethics: Trust and Testimonial Justice in Modern Laboratory Life" was presented by HPS graduate student Kayoung Kim. An abstract for her poster is given below:


The focus in research ethics for scientists has been on sanctions to prevent infractions of falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism (FFP). However, De Vries et al.(2006) claim that the most troubling ethical conflict researchers face all the time is not in such extreme situations, but the more mundane, everyday problems in the work environment such as the "gray area" of ambiguity in figuring out the meaning of raw data. Following several authors who apply virtue theory to scientists' ordinary research practices (Macfarlane 2009, Hicks and Stapleford 2016), I will highlight the mundane problems that scientists encounter in their laboratory space by focusing on the virtue of trustfulness and testimonial justice, especially when the experimenters deal with anomalous reports. I suggest that researchers in today's highly cooperative laboratories are under a holistic web of trust that consists of elements taking stakes in the question of "Whom and what to trust?" that comes out when an experiment failed. These elements not only include the well-known interrelatedness of (a) observation data and (b) background theories/models, but also (c) the competence of the experimenter, or (d) the reliability of the instruments and materials used, etc. Particularly, when the social status of a speaker-researcher (e.g., a backbone researcher or a newcomer in the field) in reporting anomalous data acts as a heuristic for the hearer-researcher to over/underestimate one's credibility as a speaker (element (c) above), leading to less doubt the other elements, I explore the possibility that this situation falls under the concept of Miranda Fricker (2007)'s "testimonial injustice," which captures Merton's idealized norm of universalism. I conclude that research ethics for experimenters should envision a virtuous hearer-researcher who tries one's best to give the appropriate amount of trust to other members in the lab, in addition to the virtuous speaker-researcher who strives for being trustworthy. I hope that this poster will open up further discussions such as: How to understand the characteristics of trust in modern laboratories? How to teach research ethics, including dealing with one's failure in conducting experiments? How to facilitate a more just lab environment that is buttressed by mutual trust of the members? etc.