“You Got Your Science In My Activism!” “You Got Your Activism In My Science!”

Yuck! Tastes like CBPR.

CBPR? I hadn’t heard of it either; not until this week anyway. It’s "community-based participatory research" and the idea is to get activists and scientists together to do research into things like the cause of higher than average breast cancer rates in some high net worth communities. The activists want the scientists to prove that pesticides are causing breast cancer in their communities; and so the scientists promptly set out to falsify the activists’ claims. Why wouldn’t it turn out well?

The answer can be found in "A Review of Advocate/Scientist Collaboration in Federal Environmental Breast Cancer Research". It turns out that "effective" CBPR requires a different sort of "inquiry paradigm." You see "[t]he positivist paradigm remains dominant in much scientific research, emphasizing objective knowledge that is separate from the knower and can only be uncovered through a scientific method of inquiry that is neutral and bias-free." "CBPR challenges this paradigm by contextualizing scientific research within particular communities, including and legitimizing advocates’ knowledge, understandings, and priorities regarding issues by which they are personally affected." (Ibid at pg 17).

So researchers, schooled in the long history of how biases, prejudices and failures to challenge closely held beliefs have thwarted science and medicine in the past, are to drop everything they hold dear? Or is it that advocates are to drop their beliefs, acquiesce to all the money they lobbied for being spent on an effort to falsify those beliefs; and, after seeing them falsified, to say "Nevermind", take the hit to their reputations and set about constructing a new narrative for their lives? The former rejects the scientific method; the latter, human nature.