Feminism and Science.

It is tempting to look at feminism as a social movement based on a social science construct - the feminist theory. But it is much more than that. It has a well defined utility of making science more objective and more inclusive, among other things. I have heard more than once of why such influences may bring in biases to the way we do science. I am inclined to reject this viewpoint.

I make no claims that Feminism or any other “ism” wouldn’t bring bias to the realm of science. Ideological lenses exist for this one reason - to test and control for these variables that we consider important or irrelevant. We have sound statistical methods to eliminate such biases. But what if the biases leads us to choose a faulty sample for the process?

It is well known that sample size doesn’t reflect the soundness of a statistical exercise. Rather, the quality of sample and the methodology is of prime importance. One could argue that since stastistics have such constraints, we will arrive at better sample spaces. Say, we are testing the efficacy of drugs. It should naturally include as many women as men. If not, we should have studies seggregated, to have a sense of different unaccounted variables.

But we see this:

Read Tirumalai Kamala's answer to How pervasive is male bias in drug testing and research? on Quora

So we should see that even when we do science, we respond to the constraints and hitherto structural imbalance of power in the society. Unless there is some sort of compulsion to include women, we will see researchers skirting these responsibility again and again.

Also we should stop seeing science as being done by some gifted genius. We do are blessed with such people, but majority of the grinding research work is done by research scholars and PhD students who toil day night to produce results. In those testing conditions, it is unrealistic to expect them to create socially optimal results. Sure, their work will meet the basic scientific scrutiny, but that is the bare minimum. As we understand science and society today, science can definitely do more.

So this makes a compelling issue to take up in the broader policy making realm on science. Along with increasing diversity in the scientific community, we should make sure that a healthy influx of people trained in social sciences are mandated. While there is no question about policy having an overarching influence on doing science, such insights that trained eyes bring shouldn’t be neglected.

With this, we should aim for a synergy of social science insights in the way we do science. Also, it could be incorporated through discussion and scientific fact-checking. This sure will augment our results rather than bring in some sort of bias as detractors claim. More perspectives enrich us, science should be confident about this.

Written on March 2, 2019