Social values and scientific evidence: the case of the HPV vaccines
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Several have argued that the aims of scientific research are not always independent of social and ethical values. Yet this is often assumed only to have implications for decisions about what is studied, or which research projects are funded, and not for methodological decisions or standards of evidence. Using the case of the recently developed HPV vaccines, we argue that the social aims of research can also play important roles in justifying decisions about (1) how research problems are defined in drug development, (2) evidentiary standards used in testing drug “success”, and (3) clinical trial methodology. As a result, attending to the social aims at stake in particular research contexts will produce more rational methodological decisions as well as more socially relevant science.