Race, Equity, and Justice (Spring 2021)

Image created by Constance Sartor for the National Science Policy Symposium (2020)

Friday, April 30th and Saturday, May 1st, 2021

Systemic racism has received growing attention in both American politics and academic scholarship. One key historical aspect of American racism is the role science has played in reifying racial difference, establishing asymmetric social orders, and obstructing the realization of social justice efforts. Thus, as public pressure to dismantle systemic racism increases, it is imperative to ask the following questions:

  • In what ways can and/or should current and future scientists directly serve the goals of racial justice in the United States? This may concern the selection of research projects, methodological choices in the designing of experiments, interpretation of data and application of drawn conclusions, etc.
  • What assumptions or commitments in certain scientific disciplines stand in the way of these goals? What makes certain problematic assumptions so difficult to eliminate from popular consciousness or common scientific methods?
  • What empirical evidence is lacking that would help uncover important yet underestimated effects of systemic racism? What kinds of scientific investigations are needed to best serve certain communities of color?
  • What underexplored historical situations have resulted in a deterioration of trust in science among communities of color? What present circumstances complicate the possibility of rebuilding that trust?
  • If possible, how might race be used responsibly in the context of medical, genomic, and other scientific research programs concerning human individuals or human social groups? How should researchers conceptualize race to avoid recapitulating the harms of scientific racism?
  • What connections among racial justice, the history of scientific racism, and present scientific practice deserve more attention from philosophers, historians, theologians, and other academic scholars? What problems have been insufficiently explored and why are these particularly relevant in our present political context?

With these preliminary questions in mind, the graduate students of the University of Notre Dame’s History and Philosophy of Science Ph.D. program, administered by the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, will convene a two day conference for the purposes of exploring the relationship between racial justice and science, broadly construed.

We invite graduate student submissions from humanists whose work relates to critical race theory or the sciences (e.g. history and/or philosophy of science, science and technology studies) as well as natural or social scientists. Interdisciplinary, theory, and practice oriented approaches are welcome. Some appropriate topics of interest might include (but are certainly not limited to): the ways in which systemic racism affects scientific practice (either from an historical or contemporary perspective), the nature of the scientific concept of race and its function in wider domains of social and political activity, the role of epistemic injustices in perpetuating harms to communities of color (within the context of scientific matters), and the relevance and importance of empirical evidence in achieving certain social justice goals.

Abstracts (300-500 words) suitable for a 20 minute presentation should be prepared for blind review and submitted to hpsnotredame@gmail.com

The deadline for submission is 11:59 PM on Sunday, March 7th, 2021. Confirmation of receipt of your submission will be provided; acceptance decisions will be sent out before the end of March. For more information or questions about the conference, please email hpsnotredame@gmail.com