Vaccine Hesitancy with Dr. Maya J. Goldenberg

Did you miss Dr. Goldenberg’s talk about her research and book on vaccine hesitancy this week? You can still hear it here, hosted by the Mercantile Library.

Dr. Goldenberg stressed the ways that doctors and scientists can change their language, listen to and address concerns, and consider the wide variety of reasons that individuals may feel uncertain about vaccines. You can also learn more about her work in her book Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science.

Answering Hard Questions: Clinical Ethicist Dr. Elizabeth Lanphier

When a patient’s family, caregivers, or medical providers raise ethical questions about how to best balance a patient’s needs, who helps them navigate those conversations and decisions? At the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a team comprising of doctors and philosophers that all have special training in ethics is prepared to help guide those conversations, hear concerns of families and health care providers, and prepare nurses and other bedside care providers for caring for diverse patient populations ranging from young kids to legal adults.

Dr. Elizabeth Lanphier is part of this team.

As a clinical ethicist, Lanphier is on call to provide counsel about patient care decisions when ethical concerns arise from patients, family, and physicians. Dr. Lanphier addresses questions from families about why an alternate care choice may not be offered, helps doctors and families weigh risks and benefits of medical options, and may work to rectify miscommunications. Much of the time, there is no single clear answer. Lanphier recognizes that families are their own ”experts on their family“ making decisions alongside medical expertise, and provide different perspectives on the risks and benefits of various choices.

Research

Lanphier also researches and writes about bioethics and social and political philosophy, often as it relates to medical care. In addition to being a clinical assistant professor in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics in the UC College of Medicine, Lanphier is a research assistant professor in the UC philosophy department, and affiliate faculty in the UC women, gender and sexuality studies department. In graduate school at Vanderbilt University, from which she earned her PhD in philosophy, she was interested in the intersection of medicine and philosophy, and sought out experiences related to this intersection with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and its Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society.

Now, she uses moral philosophy to put bioethics into practice, especially as it relates to healthcare access, justice, and inclusion. Her desire to understand and serve vulnerable populations, especially those who have historically been mistreated or neglected, drives her research.  Currently , Dr. Lanphier is working on the connection between  trauma-informed care and ethics consultation and recently published a paper advocating for a trauma informed approach to ethics consultation with neonatologist Uchenna Anani.

Additionally, her community work during graduate school with people incarcerated on Tennessee’s death row has instilled in her research and advocacy a commitment towards the incarcerated population. Last year Lanphier along with colleauges Takunda Matose and Abu Ali Abdur’raham (who is currently incarcerated on Tennessee’s death row) published a paper in the Public Philosophy Journal. In December she advocated for incarcerated persons to be prioritized higher in Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation. The resulting opinion piece received positive feedback, including from a senator who acknowledged how much work needs to be done. While some public reactions were critical, she was thrilled that it had such a wide impact, as she always aims to reach as broad an audience as possible. She and a colleague are investigating if and how the incarcerated population can take part in studies such as the COVID-19 vaccine trials without risking the coercion or exploitation this population has historically experienced in the medical research leading to tighter research regulations on incarcerated persons and other vulnerable populations.

Trust in Science

COVID-19 has brought important questions about bioethics, healthcare access, and public confidence in medical research to the forefront.  Lanphier sees medical professionals growing frustrated as the public’s trust in science deteriorates. To her, this means that clear communication and approaching medical research in a way that regains that trust is paramount. Part of this includes increasing representation of persons of color (POC) in biomedical research as researchers and participants to help increase confidence in clinical trial outcomes. As her opinion piece in the Columbus Dispatch shows, she has been considering the problem of who should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as it is still a limited resource. For example, healthcare workers should be offered it, because we need them to keep us healthy and they are at risk of virus exposure. Beyond that, it gets more complex. How do you designate other frontline workers? Many groups, including store workers and teachers, are needed, but by the time we include so much of the population, we are well beyond the number of available doses, though this number of available doses continues to increase. With this scarcity and the vaccine currently approved for emergency use, we are also a long way from being able to mandate receiving the vaccine for those who work with the vulnerable. She also posed the question of how to approach undocumented populations, who still play a critical role in their communities but may have limited access to healthcare, and also stressed that vaccine roll out needs to also address hesitancy.

Lanphier’s career path leading to her position on a clinical ethics team combined philosophy with practical experience and post-doctoral training working in healthcare environments.  Her role mixes a theoretical, philosophical approach to broader questions with day-to-day interaction with families and care teams related to ethical concerns that come from a diversity of beliefs and backgrounds. She encourages anyone wanting to follow a similar path to seek out a wide variety of experiences and talk to others who are already established in their field.

Celebrated Series “A Pact With Reason” is Now Online

In the Summer of 2020, the Mercantile Library co-hosted “A Pact with Reason,” presented by Dr. Piers Bursill-Hall and co-sponsored by Dr. Zvi Biener and Dr. Terry Grundy. Bursill-Hall is a philosopher of science at Cambridge. His interests include the history of the development of math and science in Western societies. Grundy describes him as a “natural showman” who attracted a large, global audience, many of whom were not scientists or philosophers. The Mercantile Library reported one of the largest audiences they have had for an event. 

Conversations between Grundy and Bursill-Hall about  a “weakening fidelity to truth and reason” in society inspired the series. Despite the broad topic, they wanted to tell the story of Western civilization’s “Pact with Reason” and how it developed over the centuries. As Bursill-Hall wrapped up the 10-part series, the audience demanded—and even sponsored—a two-part encore expanding on the briefly, previously mentioned Galileo Affair.  

We are excited that this series is now available online

Welcome Dr. Ryan Feigenbaum

We are excited to welcome Dr. Ryan Feigenbaum as the Center for Public Engagement with Science’s new Program Director. Dr. Feigenbaum will also serve as the new Executive Director of the Philosophy of Science Association (see PSA announcement here). He combines experience in digital media, web development, and digital humanities with expertise in the history and philosophy of the life sciences. His writing encompasses everything from best practices for the visual aspects of online communication to digital exhibits that explore the intersections of history, science, and art.

Dr. Feigenbaum’s efforts in public engagement include a digital exhibit called “Poetic Botany,” created for the New York Botanical Garden. In this exhibit, Dr. Feigenbaum explores the biology of each of nine plant species, incorporating art and poetry from people who were inspired by these plants, as well as the stories of these artists and scientists. The end result has the potential to reach a broader audience than a physical exhibit would, and appeals to people with a variety of interests.

“The Sensitive Plant,” part of the Poetic Botany virtual exhibit

Dr. Feigenbaum has also written about seemingly less exciting organisms, such as algae. In “Visions of Algae in Eighteenth-Century Botany,” he recounts how scientists discovered and improved our understanding of algae. He begins with the early classification of algae and perceptions of it as unremarkable, and then he walks his readers through the observations of its biology that led to it being more appreciated and sought out by more scientists, and even referenced in literature. He ends with a quote encouraging us to “look again” as something that once failed to capture our imaginations; perhaps this encouragement is useful elsewhere as well.

You’ll find more enagaging writing on Dr. Feigenbaum’s website. He has written about human sleep cycles, and the language we use to discuss it; philosophical arguments about whether life can be explained with science; and other intersections of history, science, and art. He also provides guidance for effectively creating digital spaces for communication and offers suggestions for best practices in web design.

With his abiding interest in communicating science and philosophy to a broad audience, and helping others do so, Dr. Feigenbaum will be a tremendous asset for the Center for Public Engagement with Science.

When Science isn’t Simple

One of the earliest lessons we learn in our training as scientists is to accept the simplest explanation of evidence, rather than assuming a more complicated solution. We call this “Occam’s Razor,” and it is repeated in class after class.

But the world is complicated. What happens when our simple explanations don’t capture the entire picture? Dr. Angela Potochnik, Director of the Center for Public Engagement with Science, explores this complexity in her new article “Constructing an Ideal Reality.”

“Idealizations like these make it possible for scientists to focus in on one or a few factors in a sea of complexity in order to get a handle on how those factors are relevant and perhaps to use them as ‘levers’ for change. Where we go wrong—and “we” here includes many scientists, philosophers, policy-makers, and others—is in assuming that our simple explanations provide the full story. “

Guest blog post

Toward a More Expansive Conception of Philosophy

In a guest post for Daily Nous, a blog about the philosophy profession, Center Director Angela Potochnik writes about initiatives in the UC Philosophy Department and how these relate to an expanded view of the nature of philosophy and philosophy training. The Center is featured prominently in the discussion.

To whom are we as philosophers speaking and responding; whom do we judge as being worthy of dialogue and, hopefully, our intellectual contributions?

Read the post, “Toward a More Expansive Conception of Philosophy,” here (link).

We are hiring!

The University of Cincinnati (UC) seeks to fill a full-time staff position to serve as Executive Director of the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA) and Program Director for the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science (that’s us!) We invite applications from candidates with an interest in nonprofit leadership, budgets and fundraising, and philosophy of science. Experience in these areas is desired but not required, as is an advanced degree in philosophy or another discipline in the humanities or sciences. Minimum degree requirement is a Bachelor’s degree. 

Approximately three-quarters of the job (or 0.75 FTE) is dedicated to serving as Executive Director (ED) of the PSA. The ED is the executive leader and public face of the PSA, responsible for overseeing the organization’s administration, programs, and strategic planning. The ED works closely with the President, Governing Board, and PSA committees to develop and implement initiatives that further the mission of the organization, such as public outreach, expanding and diversifying the membership, and fundraising. Key responsibilities include managing business office operations, including the website and member communications, facilitating board meetings, serving as the principal liaison with the editors and publisher of the journal Philosophy of Science, and above all ensuring the successful functioning of PSA biennial conferences.

The remaining one-quarter (or 0.25 FTE) is dedicated to serving as Program Director for the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science. This Center is an interdisciplinary initiative to expand and enrich the interface between science and the public to benefit all stakeholders. The Program Director will serve on the Center’s leadership team, managing organizational matters, budget and fundraising, and performing other activities congruent with PSA ED responsibilities. 

This is a continuing, twelve-month appointment with an annual salary of $60,000 and benefits. Start date is negotiable with the aim of October 19, 2020. 

Application Process
Interested and qualified candidates must complete the online application at UC’s recruitment website (link). In addition to the online application, please include a cover letter detailing your qualifications and interest in the position, curriculum vitae or resume, and the names of at least three references (who will not be contacted without advance notification to the applicant). Review of applications will begin on August 24, 2020, and will continue until the position is filled. 

If you have any questions about the position, you are welcome to contact any member of the search committee: Angela Potochnik (search committee chair, UC-PEWS Director), Jessica Pfeifer (current PSA Executive Director), Alison Wylie (PSA President).

The University of Cincinnati, as a multi-national and culturally diverse university, is committed to providing an inclusive, equitable and diverse place of learning and employment. As part of a complete job application you will be asked to include a Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion statement.

The University of Cincinnati is an Affirmative Action / Equal Opportunity Employer / Minority / Female / Disability / Veteran.