Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Department of Philosophy

Knowledge For Use

This project is funded by a 5 year 'Advanced Grant' of just over 2 million euros from the European Research Council under Horizon 2020, starting in November 2015. It will provide support for post-doctoral research and for 2 PhD students over the course of the grant.


Knowledge For Use [K4U]: Making the Most of Social Science to Build Better Policies

'Research is an investment in our future’ says Horizon 2020. That’s only true if you know what to do with it. When it comes to social policy, we don’t really know how to put our research results to use. K4U aims to remedy this. K4U will construct a radically new picture of how to use social science to build better social policies. This picture will be founded on an ambitious philosophical study of the technology of social science including a thorough reconceptualisation of objectivity, deliberation and the role of values in the science/society interface. Current work, primarily by the evidence-based policy and practice movement, focusses on knowledge production: encouraging high quality studies and vetting them. Little attention goes to knowledge use: How is social science knowledge to be used in policy design and deliberation – how should it be used so that policy outcomes are more effective and more reliably predictable and competing values and points of view are respected in policy choice and implementation?

K4U will provide not just a theoretical but a practical understanding— for users: intelligible and practically helpful to those who need to estimate and balance the effectiveness, the evidence, the chances of success, the costs, the benefits, the winners and losers, and the social, moral, political and cultural acceptability of proposed policies.

The philosophical approach of K4U is broadly Popperian. It views ‘science and technology as a means of understanding social problems and responding to them’ and it emphasises the concrete and detailed, where the real content of general philosophical concepts and claims is embodied and interrogated. K4U is a showcase for the kind of philosophy that makes a difference to real life -- philosophy for practice. And it will launch an entire new field in philosophy: the philosophy of social technology.


PhD Position

Deadline: January 12, 2016

The Department of Philosophy at Durham University and the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS) are inviting applications for a full-time, three-year PhD studentship in the new field of philosophy of social technology, starting in October, 2016, for work with the European Research Council-funded project, Knowledge for Use: Making the Most of Social Science to Build Better Policies (K4U), for which you can find a description below. The studentship offers the opportunity to work with an exciting team of philosophers and social scientists from Durham, the London School of Economics and Ca' Foscari University, Venice. Suitable candidates should have a Masters degree (with merit or distinction) or equivalent, an interest in ʻphilosophy, science and policyʼ and some knowledge in social science or a commitment to developing this knowledge in work on a K4U case study. They will be expected to work in one of the two central project research streams and to take part in one of the case-study research groups (see below for descriptions of both). Working knowledge of applied statistics is desirable but not required. Primary supervisors would be Nancy Cartwright, Julian Reiss, and Wendy Parker.

K4U themes

1. Building social policies: ▪ What knowledge do we need? ▪ How should we use it? This includes two subprojects: a. To advance practicable ways to construct “built-to-purpose causal narratives”; b. To develop an account of “evidence synthesis by building a case” for synthesising “inhomogeneous” evidence (like the mix in legal trials). ▪ What role should values play? This will involve rethinking the role of values in science.

2. Deliberating policy: To develop theoretical grounding and practicable advice about combining scientific evidence, local knowledge and a mix of moral, cultural, economic and political concerns of various interested parties in order to arrive at policies that can be expected to be reasonable, acceptable and reliable. This includes the attempt to re-conceive objectivity for policy contexts.

Case Studies: 1. UK child welfare: Understanding the underlying system. 2. International HIV-AIDS policies: Reflecting the experiences & values of intended beneficiaries. 3. Mental health in the EU: Providing ‘objective’ evidence for mental health policies. 4. Reconfiguring local health economies: Evidence, policy, practice, and participation. 5. Occupational health, work, and wellbeing: Time and space dimensions to policy over the life course. 6. Climate Services: Taking values seriously.

Knowledge for Use: Making the Most of Social Science to Build Better Policies (K4U)

Directed by Professor Nancy Cartwright

‘Research is an investment in our future’ says Horizon 2020. That’s only true if you know what to do with it. When it comes to social policy, we don’t really know how to put our research results to use. K4U aims to remedy this. K4U will construct a radically new picture of how to use social science to build better social policies. This picture will be founded on an ambitious philosophical study of the technology of social science including a thorough reconceptualisation of objectivity, deliberation and the role of values in the science/society interface. Current work, primarily by the evidence-based policy and practice movement, focusses on knowledge production: encouraging high quality studies and vetting them. Little attention goes to knowledge use: How is social science knowledge to be used in policy design and deliberation – how should it be used so that policy outcomes are more effective and more reliably predictable and competing values and points of view are respected in policy choice and implementation?

K4U will provide not just a theoretical but a practical understanding— for users: intelligible and practically helpful to those who need to estimate and balance the effectiveness, the evidence, the chances of success, the costs, the benefits, the winners and losers, and the social, moral, political and cultural acceptability of proposed policies.

The philosophical approach of K4U is broadly Popperian. It views ‘science and technology as a means of understanding social problems and responding to them’ and it emphasises the concrete and detailed, where the real content of general philosophical concepts and claims is embodied and interrogated. K4U is a showcase for the kind of philosophy that makes a difference to real life -- philosophy for practice. And it will launch an entire new field in philosophy: the philosophy of social technology.

Ahead of applying for a post through the university online system, available at https://www.dur.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply/ candidates should discuss their research proposal with a member of CHESS. Please send a CV, grade average and two-page research proposal to admin.chess@durham.ac.uk

Related Links:

https://www.dur.ac.uk/chess/

https://www.dur.ac.uk/philosophy/