Accepted Paper:

Epistemic authority on government research agencies. The case of agricultural science  


Axel Philipps (University of Siegen)
Eva Barlösius (Leibniz University Hannover)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation shows how agricultural government research agencies have reconfigured their epistemic regime.

Paper long abstract:

Government research agencies (GRA) are state-funded institutions usually for use-oriented research. The majority of them are concerned with the question how to manage the twofold requirements they are confronted with: complying with the demands of the scientific field and meeting political and administrative goals to an equal extent.

As a consequence, since their establishment at the end of the 19th century they are positioned between science and society. Our argument is that GRA have established an epistemic regime, which is similar to other institutionalized forms of constructions of expertise. Our presentation will show how GRA in the agricultural field have reconfigured their epistemic regime.

GRA were confronted with various scientific and societal changes. They were, for example, reorganized to ensure and improve scientific excellence. That suggests that the epistemic regime became dislocated from the "agricultural world". Nonetheless, other changes point in almost the opposite direction. Thus, GRA were forced to adapt their research agenda including societal protest issues, the industrialization of farming, and sustainability and eco-friendly agricultural production.

Two important lessons can be learned about epistemic regimes. First, GRA have a long history of regulated production of scientific expertise. Second, even these GRA are in need to rearrange their settings in order to include the participation of laypeople and consequently other kinds of knowledge and their criteria of validity. GRA-specific solutions might offer a suitable way to deal with the observed dynamics within science.

Panel T073
Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority