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Kevin Elliott
Kevin Elliott, Ph.D.
Associate Professor

Department: HPS
Address: W-31 Holmes
Phone: (517) 432-7374

Kevin Elliott CV

Kevin Elliott received his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Notre Dame. He is currently an Associate Professor in MSU’s Lyman Briggs College, with joint appointments in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Philosophy. His research lies at the intersection of the philosophy of science and practical ethics. Many of the case studies that he has studied involve controversial areas of contemporary research on environmental pollution (e.g., endocrine disruption, multiple chemical sensitivity, hormesis, nanotoxicology) that are relevant to public policy. His current projects can be divided roughly into the following areas:

  • Investigating the roles of ethical and social values in environmental research
  • Exploring how to respond to financial conflicts of interest in research
  • Studying ethical issues surrounding science communication
  • Investigating how to motivate public action to address environmental issues
  • Exploring ethical issues surrounding emerging technologies
  • Examining the process of scientific discovery, including “exploratory experimentation” as well as the nature and significance of scientific errors and anomalies


Journal Issues

Editor (with Daniel McKaughan) of a special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science on “Cognitive Attitudes and Values in Science,” Vol. 53, No. 10 (2015).

Editor (with Rebecca Kukla and Justin Weinberg) of a special issue of Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal on “Science, Expertise, and Democracy,” Vol. 22, No. 2 (June 2012).

Editor of a special issue of Human and Experimental Toxicology on “Hormesis and Ethics,” Vol. 27, No. 8 (August 2008).

    2015 -Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship from the MSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi (along with Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, Georgina Montgomery, Isis Settles, Pat Soranno, and Pang-Ning Tan)
    2011 -Breakthrough Rising Star Award from the University of South Carolina Vice President for Research
    2010 -Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award from the University of South Carolina
    2004 -Shaheen Award for the Humanities from the University of Notre Dame
    2003 -Marjorie Grene Prize from the International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology
    2003 -Award for Teaching by a Graduate Student from the University of Notre Dame

    Michigan State University Environmental Science and Policy Program-AgBioResearch Interdisciplinary Team Building Initiative, (PI: Sean Valles. Co-PIs: Kevin C. Elliott, Mark A. Largent, and Aaron M. McCright), Testing Communication Tactics for Overcoming Skepticism [2015 -2016] $6,830
    Michigan State University Science and Society at State Collaborative Grant Award, (PI: Kevin Elliott. Co-PIs: John Besley, Norbert Kaminski, Joe Martin, Aaron M. McCright, and Cheryl Murphy), Promoting Quality and Trust in Industry-Funded Research [2015 -2016] $10,000
    Michigan State University Science and Society at State Collaborative Grant Award, (PI: Patricia Soranno, Co-PIs: Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, Kevin Elliott, Georgina Montgomery, Pang-Ning Tan), Conceptions of Good Science in a Data-Rich World [2015 -2016] $10,000
    National Science Foundation, (Elliott, Cheruvelil, Montgomery, Settles, Soranno), Ethical Standards and Practices of Environmental Scientists: Does Team Diversity Matter? [2014 -2019] $600,000
    National Science Foundation, (Kevin Elliott, Co-PI), NIRT: Intuitive Toxicology and Public Engagement [2007 -2012] $1,399,258

Selected Publications
    2016 “Precautionary Principles,” in B. Hale and A. Light (eds.), Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics (London: Routledge, 2016).
    2016 “Pollution,” in A. Thompson and S. Gardiner (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
    2016 "Standardized Study Designs, Value Judgements, and Financial Conflicts of Interest," Perspectives on Science (2016).
    2016 "Environment," in A.J. Angulo (ed.), Miseducation: A History of Ignorance Making in America and Beyond (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).
    2016 “Values in Environmental Risk Assessments,” in C. Macpherson (ed.), Climate Change and Health: Bioethical Insights into Values and Policy (New York: Springer).
    2016 “Science and Policy,” in G. Montgomery and M. Largent (eds.), A Companion to the History of American Science (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell), p. 468-478.
    2015 "Selective Ignorance in Environmental Research,” in M. Groß and Linsey McGoey (eds.), International Handbook of Ignorance Studies (London: Routledge, 2015). p. 165-173.
    2015 (with Paul Mushak), “Structured Promotion of a Research Field: Hormesis in Biology, Toxicology, and Environmental Regulatory Science,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal Vol. 25, p. 335-368.
    2013 (authored with Daniel McKaughan) “Backtracking and the Ethics of Framing: Lessons from Voles and Vasopressin,” Accountability in Research 20 (2013): 206-226.
    2013 “Risk, Precaution, and Nanotechnology,” in R. Sandler (ed.), Ethics and Emerging Technologies (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013).
    2009 (authored with Maureen A. O’Malley, Chris Haufe, and Richard M. Burian) “Philosophies of Funding,” Cell 138 (2009): 611-615.
    2007 “Norton’s Conception of Sustainability: Political, Not Metaphysical,” Environmental Ethics 29 (2007): 3-22.
    2006 “A Novel Account of Scientific Anomaly: Help for the Dispute Over Low-Dose Biochemical Effects,” Philosophy of Science 73 (2006 Proceedings): 790-802.
    2006 “An Ethics of Expertise Based on Informed Consent,” Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (2006): 637-661.


Is a Little Pollution Good for You? Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research book image
Is a Little Pollution Good for You? Incorporating Societal Values in Environmental Research
Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise -- a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis (beneficial or stimulatory effects caused by low-dose exposure to toxic substances) claim that that this may be the case. Is A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis. In the process, it highlights the range of methodological and interpretive judgments involved in environmental research: choices about what questions to ask and how to study them, decisions about how to categorize and describe new information, judgments about how to interpret and evaluate ambiguous evidence, and questions about how to formulate public policy in response to debated scientific findings. The book also uncovers the ways that interest groups with deep pockets attempt to influence these scientific judgments for their benefit. Several chapters suggest ways to counter these influences and incorporate a broader array of societal values in environmental research: (1) moving beyond conflict-of-interest policies to develop new ways of safeguarding academic research from potential biases; (2) creating deliberative forums in which multiple stakeholders can discuss the judgments involved in policy-relevant research; and (3) developing ethical guidelines that can assist scientific experts in disseminating debated and controversial phenomena to the public. Kevin C. Elliott illustrates these strategies in the hormesis case, as well as in two additional case studies involving contemporary environmental research: endocrine disruption and multiple chemical sensitivity. This book should be of interest to a wide variety of readers, including scientists, philosophers, policy makers, environmental ethicists and activists, research ethicists, industry leaders, and concerned citizens.
Pages: 264
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date Published: March 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0199755622