Teresa BRANCH-SMITH, Institut Jean Nicod - Ecole Normale Supérieure - EHESS - PSL, France
Values are the sociocultural ideas that motivate, methodize, and bring meaning to science. They also play an integral role in the effectiveness of science communication. The need to communicate a value-conscious account of science comes from explicit consideration for publics. First, presenting science as value-rich provides a more accurate account of science than traditional 'value-free' or 'objective' narratives. Second, values make science more engaging by contextualizing it amongst epistemic and non-epistemic communities. However, science communication (and ideals for science) have a history of masking values in science, so how ought we to describe values?
To answer this question, I explore how informal learning environments like museums and science centres have contributed to obscuring values in science due to the influence of the value-free ideal (VFI). The VFI for science is the idea that non-epistemic values (e.g. personal, political, social) should not play a role in the evaluation of evidence for fear that these values may lead to the unwarranted acceptance or rejection of scientific information on subjective grounds. I argue that this erasure of non-epistemic values from science supported the rise of the deficit model in science communication. Though it may seem a step backwards to reflect on an out-of-favour communication framework like the deficit model, its legacy with respect to values remains under-explored in informal learning spaces. Thus to move forward, I draw a connection between the VFI for science, the deficit model, and exhibit design in science centres and museums. This narrative, outlining how values have come to be misrepresented, is especially relevant at a time when on a societal level, values appear increasingly divergent.
To recognise values in science, I propose a descriptive tool based on key aspects for understanding values in science (KAUVIS). Derived from major challenges in philosophy of science to the VFI, this framework brings attention to the intricate ways values are weaved throughout science. KAUVIS describes the role values take on (direct/indirect), the goals they contribute to, and the balance they must strike between being ethical and epistemic. KAUVIS also requires a degree of transparency from scientists and communicators which corresponds to publics' calls for openness and accountability. From an efficiency standpoint, the benefit of KAUVIS is that not only does it make scientific information more accurate by describing values in science and how they are used, but it also makes science more engaging by contextualizing it. In so doing, KAUVIS is able to put publics in a position to have informed discussions about what values should be a part of science without dictating which (if any) are the correct ones. Thus, using KAUVIS to describe values, can respond to tensions between effectively communicating science, and coming to a common understanding about science.