No one solution to the "new demarcation problem"?: A view from the trenches

Stud Hist Philos Sci. 2022 Apr;92:177-185. doi: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2022.02.001. Epub 2022 Feb 23.


The new demarcation problem asks whether and how we can identify illegitimate values in scientific inquiry. Yet given the multiple contexts and audiences of science advice occurring in practice, a single strategy or set of ex ante criteria may not be the best way to approach this difficult puzzle. This paper offers a mapping of several distinct types of manifestations of the new demarcation problem arising in environmental and health policymaking over the last fifty years and notes their highly divergent features with respect to assessing the illegitimacy of the values in scientific work. The first manifestation of the new demarcation problem involves ensuring that the public and/or their designated representatives are alerted to the embedded values inextricably intertwined in mainstream, communally-held scientific advice that may significantly diverge from the policy audience's preferences in ways that could be considered illegitimate. The second manifestation involves locating ends-oriented or preference biases that sometimes afflict scientific research and advice in the applied world and illegitimately compromise the reliability of that work. Rather than lumping the new demarcation problem into a single set of challenges and evaluating them in isolation from policy context, greater analytical progress could perhaps be made by splitting these challenges into distinct categories and assessing illegitimate values from the standpoint of the differing audiences and policy contexts.

Keywords: Bias; Industry-funded science; Institutional design; Law; New demarcation problem; Peer review; Policy; Public deliberations; Science; Values.

MeSH terms

  • Policy Making*
  • Reproducibility of Results