Accepted paper:

Boundary work between expert knowledge and alternative knowledge with reference to the non-ionizing radiation research center in Israel


Liat Milwidsky (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

The case study of the establishment of a Knowledge and Information research Center on Non-Ionizing Radiation in Israel offers a fertile ground for exploring the negotiation of boundaries between expert versus Representatives of the public that hold alternative expert knowledge about the health, environmental, security and social risks presented by non-ionizing radiation from cellular phones. I find this case study particularly interesting because while uncertainty is perceived as characterizing alternative knowledge, this issue actually challenges expert knowledge. Accordingly, the question is how to deal with the tensions between the various kinds of knowledge and the uncertainty regarding non-ionizing radiation in particular in the knowledge center's conceptualization. To examine this question, I used qualitative methods, including semi-structured in-depth interviews in the academic and political arena, involving key players from various knowledge areas. I also collected and analyzed documents from Knesset assembly and committee hearings, regulations and proceedings in ministerial protocols and expert committee reports. The findings show that even given the potential for conflict between various types of knowledge, it seems that in practice, those supporting the establishment of the knowledge center use boundary-work to bridge the tension between the various knowledge types. The supporters view the center as representing one health talk. At the same time, they view it as redefining the boundaries of local and universal, cosmopolitan and activist, rational, abstract, elitist and democratic knowledge. The knowledge center is perceived as able to dispel uncertainty and crystallize alternative knowledge, while tearing down the dichotomy between scientists and decision makers.

panel C3
Stakeholder involvement: An inclusive or exclusive practice?