Governmental and professional guidelines and standards abound in all areas of social life. This panel invites STS contributions addressing epistemic dimensions of guidelines and standards in the 'play of governance'.
Governmental and professional guidelines and standards abound in all areas of social life. Enacting a rather traditional epistemology these tools of governance constitute an important nexus in modern societies' geography of expertise. They appeal to the almost indisputable idea that public policies and professional practices should be knowledge based. Depending on the field of policy or practice, standards and guidelines proclaim to promote a collective 'good', ranging from quality of care, objectivity of assessment to sustainability of the welfare state; from transparency of public decision making and accountability to participation in democracy, promotion of autonomy, empowerment and self-determination; from public health and reduction of disease burden to individual freedom and autonomy. The sheer number of standards and guidelines speaks of an expensive institutional infrastructure in which governmental agencies and elite professional bodies identify practitioners' need for a better knowledge base of their practice. However the general confidence in the ability of scientific knowledge to improve governmental and professional practices, and in standards and guidelines as necessary tools of mediation, is not matched by evidence that testifies to their effectiveness. On the contrary, a growing number of STS-informed empirical studies questions standards and guidelines as governing technologies: their monologic style in a time that breathes dialogue and participation, occasional failures to bring the science together, strategic exposure management, their maintenance of hierarchies of expertise and consequences that run counter to the proclaimed objective. This panel invites STS contributions addressing epistemic dimensions of guidelines and standards in the 'play of governance' The papers will be presented in the order shown and grouped 4-4-4 between sessions