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Heather Douglas

For the 2010-2011 academic year, I will be a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, supported by the National Science Foundation.  I will be working on the weight of evidence problem (how to weigh complex sets of evidence from multiple disciplines for use in the policy process), developing an explanatory approach and comparing it to other approaches.

In general, my research centers on the use of science in policy-making.  This includes not only how to conceptualize that process, but also what the involvement of science in policy-making means for our understanding of science, for the role of values in science, for the moral responsibilities of scientists, and for the nature of scientific objectivity.  Finally, I am interested in the development of philosophy of science in the twentieth century, particularly in the crucible of the cold war.

I received my Ph.D. from the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998.  After teaching for six years at the University of Puget Sound, I joined the department at UT in 2004.

Selected Publications

Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.
Sci. & Eng. Ethics:
Risk Analysis:

“Facts, Values, and Objectivity,” The SAGE Handbook of Philosophy of Social Science, Ian Jarvie and Jesús Zamora-Bonilla, eds., forthcoming.

“Engagement for Progress: Applied Philosophy of Science in Context” (2010), Synthese, vol. 177, pp. 317-335.

“Reintroducing Prediction to Explanation” (2009), Philosophy of Science, vol. 76, pp. 444-463.

“Philosophy of Science, Political Engagement, and the Cold War:  An Introduction,” Science and Education, vol. 18 no. 2 (Feb. 2009), pp. 157-160; guest editor for “Politics and Philosophy of Science” special issue.

“The Role of Values in Expert Reasoning,” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 1 (Jan. 2008), pp. 1-18.

“Rejecting the Ideal of Value-Free Science,” in Value-Free Science? Ideals and Illusions (2007), Harold Kincaid, John Dupré, and Alison Wylie, eds., Oxford University Press, pp. 120-139.

“Bullshit at the Interface of Science and Policy:  Global Warming, Toxic Substances, and Other Pesky Problems,” in Philosophy and Bullshit (2006), Gary L. Hardcastle and George A. Reisch, eds., Open Court Publications, pp. 213-226.

“Inserting the Public into Science,” in Democratization of Expertise?  Exploring Novel Forms of Scientific Advice in Political Decision-Making, Sociology of the Sciences, vol. 24 (2005), Sabine Maasen and Peter Weingart (eds.), Springer. pp. 153-169.

 “The Irreducible Complexity of Objectivity,” Synthese, vol. 138 no. 3 (2004): 453-473.

“The Moral Responsibilities of Scientists: Tensions between Autonomy and Responsibility,” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 40 no. 1 (2003): 59-68.

“Inductive Risk and Values in Science,” Philosophy of Science, vol. 67 n. 4 (2000): 559-579.

Recent Presentations

“Theorizing Science in Society,” November 6, 2010, Philosophy of Science Association Biennial Meeting, Montreal, Canada.

“Creating the Disciplinary Space of Philosophy of Science:  A History of the PSA before 1970,” The Robert S. Cohen Forum: 50 Years of the Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, Boston University, Boston, MA.  (Video at

“From Movement to Discipline: Philosophy of Science in the 20th Century,” October 12, 2010, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

“The Structure of Values in Science,” September 23, 2010, Science and Sensibility: Studying Nature as a Human Endeavor Lecture Series, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA.  (Video at

“Social Science, the Unity of Science, and Values in Science,” June 25, 2010, Eighth Congress of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, Budapest, Hungary.  (

“Are Values a Special Problem for the Human Sciences?  Oscillations in the 20th Century,” June 19, 2010, Current Topics in the Philosophy of the Human Sciences, Berlin Institute of Technology, Germany.

Commentary for Monsignor Sanchez Sorondo’s Plenary Talk “The Truth of Science for Justice and Peace,” May 18, 2010, The Rightful Place of Science?, Arizona State University. (

“A Tale of Two Distinctions,” May 15, 2010, Science, Facts, and Values, University of Western Ontario.

 “Explanations and Weight of Evidence,” December 8, 2009, Society for Risk Analysis Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD.

“The Necessity of Social Values in Science,” May 29, 2009, Science and Values: The Politicization of Science, European Science Foundation Research Conference, Bielefeld University, Germany.

Recent Professional Service

  • Member-at-Large, Section L (History and Philosophy of Science), American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009 ­– present)

  • Governing Board for the Philosophy of Science Association (2007 ­– present); PSA 2010 Program Committee

  • International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science Steering Committee (2007 – 2009)

  • Reviewer for Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Perspectives on Science, Science and Public Policy, and the National Science Foundation.
Heather Douglas

Contact Information

Heather Douglas
Associate Professor
815 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0480

Phone: 865-974-7215
Fax: 865-974-3509