Scientists and the Regulation of Risk

Scientists and the Regulation of Risk

Standardising Control

David Demortain

Risks are increasingly regulated by international standards, and scientists play a key role in standardisation. This fascinating book exposes the action of ‘invisible colleges’ of scientists – loose groups of prominent scientific experts who combine practical experience of risk and control with advisory responsibility – in the formulation of international standards.

Chapter 8: Scientists, Standardisation and Regulatory Change: The Emergent Action of Invisible Colleges

David Demortain

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance


Many scientists are in the business of evaluating risks. Many also demonstrate a certain degree of polyvalence and multi-professionalism in working with bureaucracies, industries and international standard-setting or policy-making bodies. This mobility and circulation is not the preserve of the scientists followed here. Settling down in more official regulatory or policy functions is rare though, as is the fact of being consistently involved in a circuit of exchange of experience and ideas about risks and their control. Being involved in standard-setting projects is rarer still. Not all scientists can hope to have the impact that the three regulatory concepts of pharmacovigilance planning, HACCP and post-market monitoring had. There are also some differences between the three cases in that respect. This chapter revisits them, shedding more light on the changes that they brought about in the control of products and adverse events. It does so to solve one final question: are invisible colleges political actors who seek to achieve defined effects on regimes and markets? How much do they seek and take responsibility for imposing defined regulatory change on other actors of the regulatory domain, as opposed to articulating and enabling change that is expected and desired by the latter? The impact of regulatory concepts on activities of control can be assessed at the level of systems of control. Risk regulation is an interplay of tools and actors – sometimes also called ‘regimes’ (Hood et al., 2001). As is clear from all three cases considered here, regulatory concepts do institute such systems....

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