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HOW IS WHO
F E D E R I C A R U S S O A N D G U I D O C A N I G L I A
Empowering evidence for sustainability and public health
interventions
@federicarusso | @GuidoCaniglia
SUSTAINABILITY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
CHALLENGES
Complex and wicked real-world problems
2
SUSTAINABILITY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
INTERVENTIONS
The mechanisms and the actors to address in interventions
3
What knowledge and evidence do we need about
sustainability and public health interventions
to enhance “shared agency” and “collective action” ?
4
The HOW
The WHO
5
Outline
1. What knowledge and evidence are not.
2. Evidence, mechanisms, shared agency.
3. Evidence, clues, shared agency.
4. In sum: How is who!
What knowledge and evidence we need about sustainability
and public health interventions (the HOW) to enhance
“shared agency” and “collective action” (the WHO)?
WHAT KNOWLEDGE AND EVIDENCE ARE
NOT
Knowledge:
● We cannot reduce knowledge to a thing that is possessed, but need to look at knowledge
generation and mobilization in complex individual and social learning processes.
● We cannot look at knowledge and action as separate, but as tightly entangled and mutually
reinforcing.
Evidence:
● We cannot reduce evidence to a place holder in the probabilistic relation of hypotheses,
theories, data.
● We cannot restrict the meaning of evidence to the one generated by the ‘top methods’ of
evidence hierarchies
6
MIXED MECHANISMS FOR ACTION
Mechanisms are not machines
Mixed mechanisms are bio-social-political-technical-cultural
Arrangements of entities of different types, interacting in and with an environment
7
Mobilizing:
 Academic fields and disciplines,
 A plurality of voices,
 Ways of knowing from society
WHEN MECHANISMS BECOME
CROSSWORD PUZZLES
8
MECHANISMS AND AGENCY: TWO
DIMENSIONS
EPISTEMIC
Research should look for actionable
factors from the start, not after the
fact.
It is not a question translation, but of
design.
ACTION-ORIENTED
• Actionability is not independent
from who has to act, for this reason
context of co-production is
important.
9
‘Agency-enhancing and enhanced’:
By looking at agencies at different levels (researchers, citizens / patients / policy
makers) we can empower different actors in different context
SUMMING UP:
HOW IS WHO
- In detailing the how, researchers need to detail the who: epistemic
element
- The ‘who’ conducting the research are part of the ‘how’: agency
element
10

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How is Who. Empowering evidence for sustainability and public health interventions

  • 1. HOW IS WHO F E D E R I C A R U S S O A N D G U I D O C A N I G L I A Empowering evidence for sustainability and public health interventions @federicarusso | @GuidoCaniglia
  • 2. SUSTAINABILITY AND PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES Complex and wicked real-world problems 2
  • 3. SUSTAINABILITY AND PUBLIC HEALTH INTERVENTIONS The mechanisms and the actors to address in interventions 3
  • 4. What knowledge and evidence do we need about sustainability and public health interventions to enhance “shared agency” and “collective action” ? 4 The HOW The WHO
  • 5. 5 Outline 1. What knowledge and evidence are not. 2. Evidence, mechanisms, shared agency. 3. Evidence, clues, shared agency. 4. In sum: How is who! What knowledge and evidence we need about sustainability and public health interventions (the HOW) to enhance “shared agency” and “collective action” (the WHO)?
  • 6. WHAT KNOWLEDGE AND EVIDENCE ARE NOT Knowledge: ● We cannot reduce knowledge to a thing that is possessed, but need to look at knowledge generation and mobilization in complex individual and social learning processes. ● We cannot look at knowledge and action as separate, but as tightly entangled and mutually reinforcing. Evidence: ● We cannot reduce evidence to a place holder in the probabilistic relation of hypotheses, theories, data. ● We cannot restrict the meaning of evidence to the one generated by the ‘top methods’ of evidence hierarchies 6
  • 7. MIXED MECHANISMS FOR ACTION Mechanisms are not machines Mixed mechanisms are bio-social-political-technical-cultural Arrangements of entities of different types, interacting in and with an environment 7
  • 8. Mobilizing:  Academic fields and disciplines,  A plurality of voices,  Ways of knowing from society WHEN MECHANISMS BECOME CROSSWORD PUZZLES 8
  • 9. MECHANISMS AND AGENCY: TWO DIMENSIONS EPISTEMIC Research should look for actionable factors from the start, not after the fact. It is not a question translation, but of design. ACTION-ORIENTED • Actionability is not independent from who has to act, for this reason context of co-production is important. 9 ‘Agency-enhancing and enhanced’: By looking at agencies at different levels (researchers, citizens / patients / policy makers) we can empower different actors in different context
  • 10. SUMMING UP: HOW IS WHO - In detailing the how, researchers need to detail the who: epistemic element - The ‘who’ conducting the research are part of the ‘how’: agency element 10

Editor's Notes

  1. I’m very excited to present this work in progress as part of AAAs conference, in session together with Hanne and Sean This is a work in progress, collaboration among the two of us. We come from different fields in phil sci, and tackling different problems. But found out the our respect areas and their problems (sustainability / public health) have much in common. Here, try to say what they have in common, and how we think these problem should be addressed. V.Briefly put: interventions for SS and PH [How] need to put agency at the center of the discourse [WHO]
  2. SS e PH similarly deal with complex real-world challenges, not easy to frame or solve, also called ‘wicked’. In both cases they regard wide sectors of the population and affect the most vulnerable, such as those disadvantaged due to race, income, abilitie or gender. In the case of sustainability, often it is towards adaptation and mitigation of these challenges that one can move. In the case of public health, often it is towards addressing health and socio-economic inequalities. These problems, we shall argue, are better understood in a mechanistic perspective (of a special kind), and one that puts the agency of people and of researchers at the centre.
  3. The similarity of the challenges also leads to recognize similarities in how those challenges can be addressed, that is the decision-making processes and interventions that can contribute to addressing them. Both in the case of sustainability challenges and in the case of public health challenges, it is important to understand HOW and why they might contribute to addressing the problem; WHO is involved at different stages of research, decisions and interventions (often require the collaboration of many societal actors, such as community representatives, people working in administration, scientists and more). These two dimensions of the HOW and of the WHO are inextricably interconnected.
  4. We raise the need to find epistemological frameworks that better relate knowledge and evidence to the peculiar nature of sustainability and public health interventions. We start to develop ways of understanding knowledge and evidence that better connect/combine considerations about the HOW (How and why does it work?) and about the WHO (Who are the actors pursue such interventions? Who is in charge?) as interconnected and interdependent. We ask: What knowledge and evidence do we need about sustainability and public health interventions to enhance “shared agency” and “collective action” ? Why is this question relevant? Because, a lot of the knowledge generated through research is not conducive to agency enhancement after all. Examples of cutting-edge research that is not actionable, agency-enhancing, and therefore not empowering: (1) Biomarkers in public health (2) Climate modeling and how to deal with and address the consequences of climate change. So, the question is relevant, and likely to impact not just the domain of action (how are public health and sustainability interventions conducted and evaluated), but also the domain of knowledge generation (what kind of research format and funding lines are used to generate what kind of knowledge and evidence). Philosophers will recognize that this is the long-standing question of the relation between knowledge and action.
  5. We use tools from philosophy of science in order to better understand how knowledge - or evidence base - in support of sustainability and public health interventions can be generated. We engage specifically with two sets of concepts that we deem useful when dealing with issues of evidence, interventions, and agency: the notion of mechanism and the notion of clue. We elaborate and build on these in order to elaborate our proposal. Structure of the rest of the talk: First … what evidence and knowledge are not Second. We focus on how. We ask: how to bring about change in factor X? Our answer is to look at mixed mechanisms Mechanisms that are bio-social-political-cultural-technical … Mobilize knowledges that provide clues (in the sense of Haack) about the joints of the mechanisms that have explanatory and action-able power. These joints may in fact be quite far from the target factor X. In the mechanisms there is already a lot of agency Third: We explain how to generate and gather evidence of mixed mechanisms by using the crosswords analogy of Haack We need to identify the relations of evidential support between different pieces of evidence (mechanisms are mixed). Different pieces of evidence offer mutual support to each other. This is why we need to mobilize knowledge from different fields and disciplines.
  6. [here basically read the slide] Knowledge: We cannot reduce knowledge to a thing that is possessed, but need to look at knowledge generation and mobilization in complex individual and social learning processes. We cannot look at knowledge and action as separate, but as tightly entangled and mutually reinforcing. Evidence: We cannot reduce evidence to a place holder in the probabilistic relation of hypotheses, theories, data. We cannot restrict the meaning of evidence to the one generated by the ‘top methods’ of evidence hierarchies
  7. In advocating a mechanistic understanding of problems in SS and PH, we are not suggesting that these are ‘machine-like’, engineered issue, in which it is easy or even possible to identify a single factor to bring about change in another factor. We instead appeal to mixed-mechanisms, in which numerous factors play a role: biological, social, cultural, economic, technical, etc. These different kinds of factor interact with one another, and at different levels: the level of individual action, of group action, of social pressure, of institution, etc. We insist on the idea of a mechanism, because mechanisms carry explanatory power = we are forced to give some description of the working of the mechanism, of the factors and actors thereby involved. We shall see later that this way of understanding mechanism also needs a different way of understanding evidence, and we shall appeal to Susan Haack’s idea of crossword puzzle to explain the evidence needed and involved.
  8. Now time to turn to evidence. In the era of E-B anything, what evidence is to support actions?? When we start working with mechanisms and trying to understand how to use them, the work we do is similar to what goes into solving a crossword puzzle. Susan Haack’s work is useful to explain what this means. She uses the analogy of crosswords: the crossword represents the structure of relations of evidential support between different pieces. The crossword should also illustrate how different pieces of evidence offer mutual support to each other. The crossword idea serves to illustrate how we come to establish *more or less* certain beliefs, on the basis of evidence. It is to support empirical knowledge, acknowledging that it is fallible. It is to defend the work of science, because it is about understanding what support what. The form of justification that the crossword puzzle suggest is gradual: There are some foundational aspects (what the world is ‘really’ like) and also some coherentist aspects (how the pieces of evidence ‘hang on’ together). But we need to understand the the practice of science is more complex than just one or just the other. That is why we need to work with an analogy, that guides us through salient aspects of establishing evidence of mechanisms. Evidence of mechanisms works exactly in the way Haack describes. There are no mechanisms out there to be picked like cherries on a tree. Whatever we claim about mechanisms -- biological, social, bio-social -- is the result of multiple studies, done at multiple times and in multiple places, and at times with contradictory results. The whole point of mechanism is not to crack the code to open the opaque box and see exactly how things work, but to co-construct knowledge and understanding of these biological, social, and bio-social workings. With crosswords, we care of putting the right word in the appropriate place, following the clues we are provided with.
  9. There are two dimensions Epistemic: Research should look for actionable factors from the start, not after the fact. It is not a question translation, but of design. Action-oriented Actionability is not independent from who has to act, for this reason context of co-production is important. This leads us to the concept of ‘Agency-enhancing and enhanced’: By looking at agencies at different levels (researchers, citizens / patients / policy makers) we can empower different actors in different context
  10. [Read slide and add:] HOW is WHO In detailing the how, researchers need to detail the who: epistemic element The ‘who’ conducting the research are part of the ‘how’: agency element We think that this way of looking at interventions, and at the agencies that are involved therein also calls for more collaborations between science and society too.
  11. Triangulation different from crossword Full triangulation means that different studies point to the same result (for instance, it is used in some lab practices or in some economics contexts) Instead, thinking in terms of crossword about interventions and decision both in sustainability and in public health implies understanding How different pieces of evidence belong to the same puzzle for instance how the biology of the virus interacts with and within social environments (epistemic) The implications for this knowledge for how certain sectors of the populations might deal with it (action-oriented) How different pieces of evidence provide clues which can direct towards further investigation for instance … why certain ethnic groups are more vulnerable (epistemic) And how to create conditions and opportunities so that those groups can be protected or protect themselves (action-oriented) These considerations, both the epistemic and the action-oriented ones, need to be co-developed if we want to understand how different pieces of evidence, placed in a given crossword puzzle, empower some actors to design, implement, policies, and other actors to receive and realize such policy interventions