What Is in It for Me? The Benefits of Diversity in Scientific Communities

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Abstract

I investigate the reciprocal relationship between social accounts of knowledge production and efforts to increase the representation of women and some minorities in the academy. In particular, I consider the extent to which feminist social epistemologies such as Helen Longino’s critical contextual empiricism can be employed to argue that it is in researchers’ epistemic interest to take active steps to increase gender diversity. As it stands, critical contextual empiricism does not provide enough resources to succeed at this task. However, considering this view through an employment equity lens highlights areas where such theories need to be further developed. I argue that views such as Longino’s ought to attend to nuances of community structure and cultural features that inhibit critical social interactions, if we are to maximize the epistemic as well as the ethical improvements associated with a social approach to knowing. These developments advance these epistemic theories for their own sake. They also help develop these theories into a tool that can be used by those calling for increased diversity in the academy.