University of Waterloo
Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy
Carla Fehr works in the areas of socially relevant philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and feminist epistemology. Her research examines the social nature of scientific research. Simply put, she argues that diversity promotes excellence. Scientific communities that include members from a diversity of social and material locations, and members who hold different theoretical perspectives, facilitate research that is more creative, more rigorous, and better able to meet the needs of a wide range of publics and policy makers, than homogeneous scientific communities. This means that research communities ought to value diversity not only for ethical and political reasons, but also because it makes our science better.
She is also interested in exploring ways to foster this diversity. She conducts research in feminist philosophy of biology, in which she develops critiques of biological accounts of sex differences in human cognition and in the division of labour. Understanding this sex difference research is particularly important because it has frequently been used to justify the relative absence of women in science and technology careers.
She works in the epistemology of ignorance, exploring why smart people of goodwill resist acknowledging the how race, gender and other social categories structure both our knowledge producing institutions and the knowledge that we produce in those institutions. This work is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on research in sociology and psychology.
Dr. Fehr’s research program has explicit and direct, practical and policy implications. These implications range from equitably setting national research priorities, to creating a positive culture in academic professional organizations, to developing and implementing university policies that promote the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty, to the development of departmental climates in which all faculty members are enabled to do their best work. Dr. Fehr frequently consults on climate issues and flexible career policies within the academy.
She is a founder of the American Philosophical Association, Committee on the Status of Women, Site Visit Program. This program is a resource for philosophy departments across the US and Canada who would like to improve the climate for women philosophers. She is also the Chair of the Status of Women and Equity Committee at the University of Waterloo.