Complex Underdetermination and the Units of Clinical Translation

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 30, Issue: 2, Page: 207-227

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Spencer Phillips Hey
UPV/EHU Press, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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What makes a high-quality biomarker experiment? The success of personalized medicine hinges on the answer to this question. In this paper, I argue that judgment about the quality of biomarker experiments is mediated by the problem of theoretical underdetermination. That is, the network of biological and pathophysiological theories motivating a biomarker experiment is sufficiently complicated that it often frustrates valid interpretation of the experimental results. Drawing on a case-study in biomarker diagnostic development from neurooncology, I argue that this problem of underdetermination can be overcome with greater coordination across the biomarker research trajectory. I then sketch an account for how coordination across a research trajectory can be evaluated. I ultimate conclude that what makes a high-quality biomarker experiment must be judged by the epistemic contribution it makes to this coordinated research effort.

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