In the health and human sciences, decision-making is often guided by standardized tests, whether diagnostic, cognitive, or visual. Validation is the process through which a given test or measurement is judged to be a suitable, reliable, and informative guide to an aspect of human health (or ability) or the development of disease. This working group focuses on the history of validation practices and how they have become tied to formal and informal regimes of regulation. Whether it is for the determination of a genetic predisposition to a condition or disease, a psychological assessment for a learning disability, or a mutagenicity test to screen for carcinogenic chemicals, validation of a test can involve high stakes for patients, health care providers, educators, family members, government regulators, and many sectors of industry. In addition, assumptions about human difference, including along axes of race, sex, gender, age, and class, can become subtly implicated in the design of tests and diagnostics or in their interpretation. For all these reasons, the methodological arena of testing requirements, standardization, and validation can become a political battleground involving a broad range of actors, including regulators, activists, industry representatives, scientific experts, lawyers, laypersons, as well as many other professionals. We aim to understand how globally applied evaluative categories, such as the validity of a test, its specificity and sensitivity, have been put to use in national and international contexts.
This working group brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working on chemical and medical regulation, educational testing, public health, environmental protection, and other allied fields of human and health science.
This working group is jointly coordinated with Angela Creager, Chair of the Department of History at Princeton University.