René Descartes Lecturer 2016

Heather Douglas



Heather Douglas is the Waterloo Chair in Science and Society and Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She received her Ph.D. from the History and Philosophy of Science Department at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998. She is the author of Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009) as well as numerous articles. Her work focuses on the role of values in science, science policy, and science in democratic societies and has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is a Fellow of the Institute for Science, Society, and Policy at the University of Ottawa and a Professor of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, where she convenes the Science & Health Policy Research Cluster.
Heather Douglas at the University of Waterloo
Heather Douglas at academia.edu

Invited Speakers and Commentators


Arthur Petersen


Arthur Petersen is Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy at University College London. He joined UCL after more than 13 years’ work as scientific adviser on environment and infrastructure policy within the Dutch Government. Most recently he served as Chief Scientist of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (2011–2014). Arthur is also Professorial Fellow at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment – RIVM (since April 2016)and Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (since 2009), has been Adjunct Professor of Science and Environmental Public Policy at the VU University Amsterdam (2011–2016), and has been Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science (2009–2014) and at UCL STEaPP (January–August 2014). Arthur studied physics and philosophy, obtained doctorate degrees in atmospheric sciences (Doctor of Philosophy – PhD, Utrecht University, 1999) and philosophy of science (Doctor of Public Administration – DPA, VU University Amsterdam, 2006), and now also finds disciplinary homes in anthropology and political science. Most of his research is about managing uncertainty.
For more information, see his webpage.


Eric Schliesser


Eric Schliesser is Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Professor of Philosophy & Moral Sciences, Ghent University. He works in the history of early modern philosophy & the science(s), the philosophy of economics, and so-called meta-philosophy. He has published on Spinoza, Newton, Hume, Adam Smith, Sophie de Grouchy, Chicago economics, and the organization of science. He is the editor of Sympathy: a History and Ten Neglected Classics of Philosophy. His monograph on Adam Smith is under review.

He blogs at Digressionsnimpressions.

For more information see his webpage.


Kristina Rolin


Kristina Rolin is Research Fellow at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her main areas of research are philosophy of science and philosophy of the social sciences, with emphasis on social epistemology and feminist epistemology. She has explored such topics as values in science, gender in science, trust in science, scientific collaboration, democracy and science, and the role of scientific/intellectual movements in science. Her publications can be found in Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Perspectives on Science, Social Epistemology, Episteme, and Hypatia.

For more information, see her webpage.


Matthew J. Brown


Matthew J. Brown is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at the University of Texas at Dallas and also the Director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology. He works in philosophy of science, science and technology studies, and cognitive science. The main areas of his research deal with the intersection of science with values, the way science informs policy, and the history of American pragmatism. He has published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Philosophical Studies, and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of California, San Diego, and his BS from the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. One of his major projects is a grant funded by the National Science Foundation to study “Engineering Ethics as an Expert Guided and Socially Situated Activity.”

You can find out more at his website.


Daniel Steel


Daniel Steel’s research focuses on coupled ethical-epistemic issues in science, such as the role of values in science, especially in relation to environmental and public health issues. He is the author of Philosophy and the Precautionary Principle: Science, Evidence, and Environmental Policy (Cambridge 2015) and Across the Boundaries: Extrapolation in Biology and Social Science (Oxford 2008), as well as numerous articles in leading journals in the philosophy of science.

His current projects can be divided into three main categories: (1) research on the value stances of scientists, and how these vary according to disciplinary and demographic factors; (2) examination of the problem of sponsorship bias (i.e., the tendency of researchers to draw conclusions that coincide with the financial interests of their funders) and evaluation of proposals for how to address it; (3) normative philosophical work on how values and science should interact.

For more information see his webpage.

Torsten Wilholt


Torsten Wilholt is Professor of Philosophy and History of the Natural Sciences at Leibniz Universität Hannover. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy, Mathematics and History of Science from Humboldt Universität Berlin and obtained a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bielefeld University on the basis of a dissertation in philosophy of mathematics in 2002. After his Ph.D., he remained in Bielefeld as a Postdoc (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter) and later Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftlicher Assistant) and attained his Habilitation in Philosophy in 2010, for a thesis on the question of why and in what sense scientific research ought to be free. He has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto (on a fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation) and acting Professor of Philosophy of Science and Technology at Stuttgart University, before joining the faculty at Hannover as a tenured professor in 2011. His recent research interests include the social epistemology of science, the philosophy of applied science and the political philosophy of science. Since 2015, he is chairperson of the newly established joint graduate program (Graduiertenkolleg) of Leibniz Universität Hannover and Bielefeld University, “Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research”, funded by the German national research agency DFG.

For more information see his webpage.