Scientists and the Regulation of Risk
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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.
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Chapter 1: Risk Regulation – From Controversies to Common Concepts

David Demortain


Scientists shape risk regulation more than they would care to admit. Beyond the assessment of risks, a commonly accepted role of scientists in regulation, they collectively shape standards for managing risks. They might be tempted to deny they have this influence, and in a sense they are right to do so. Only a very specific kind of scientist seems qualified to standardise control: a transnational and multi-professional elite who circulate almost invisibly among the different actors of the regulation of risks. These are people that advise regulators and policy-makers, carry out experiments for and with businesses, and sit in international standardsetting committees alongside their professional practice as researchers, risk assessors or even physicians. Circulation in the different spheres of regulation explains their ability to articulate acceptable regulatory concepts, that is, ideas about the benefits of extending a practice to address a type of risk. This book investigates how invisible colleges of scientists produce such concepts in the domains of medicines safety, food hygiene and novel foods (Chapters 4 to 6). Before this, the relation between science and regulation is explored theoretically and historically (Chapters 2 and 3). The sociological and political implications of scientists’ action on regulatory concepts are investigated thereafter (Chapters 7 and 8). The present introduction explains why what is dealt with here is of interest at all and charts the structure of the book. DISPUTES AND AGREEMENT IN RISK REGULATION Nowadays, science is seen to pose as many problems as it solves. This perception is strong when...

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