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 7: Exploring Invisible Colleges: Sociology of the Standardising Scientist

David Demortain


Regulatory concepts emerge thanks to the circulation of scientists, the evaluative work they carry out in a variety of sites individually or collectively, and the circuit of standardisation that they shape linking together multinational companies, professional associations and learned societies, government, and intergovernmental and supranational organisations. Pharmacovigilance planning moved closer to being an international standard thanks to two successive moves, from the MCA working group (which channelled a number of similar concepts into a clear formulation) to the CIOMS and then to the ICH. The HACCP story is to a large extent that of a relatively stable set of scientists, most of them active through the ICMSF, WHO expert consultations and national delegations to the Codex Alimentarius. The emergence of a unique post-market monitoring standard was helped by the gathering in the ILSI of a small group of industry and academic scientists who knew each other through their activities on scientific advice, respective publications or previous ILSI projects. These stories thus illustrate how intimate science and transnational risk regulation have become. They show how scientists, standing as experts in multiple sites of food or medicines control, forge concepts that align actors and render standard-setting simply possible. The discussion of the concepts of communities and networks in Chapter 2 shows that the influence of transnational scientific experts on regulatory policies is not a newly recognised phenomenon. Scientists’ specific ability to develop ideas, their habit of collegial deliberation, the elements of knowledge they share when their research deals with similar topics or...

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