Accepted paper:

Scientific Expertise and Occupational Health: How to make things work?

Author:

Emmanuel Henry (Université Paris-Dauphine )

Paper short abstract:

How the rise of scientific expertise shapes the definition of issues and makes harder for activists and workers to be heard? This paper will try to understand at which conditions scientific expertise can help to take better into account workers’ interests.

Paper long abstract:

In the field of occupational health, issues are increasingly considered in technical and scientific terms. The use of scientific knowledge and expertise is consequently more and more important. This evolution implies multiple impacts on occupational health policies and on the stakeholders concerned. One of these consequences is that the scientific definition of occupational health issues tends to make more difficult the work of unions and activists and to favour industries' and firms' interests.

In this paper, I will analyze how the rise of scientific expertise shapes the definition of issues and makes harder for activists and workers to be heard. The use of occupational exposure limits to govern workers' exposure to toxins is a good example of this kind of evolution. At the same time, some initiatives linked with activism try to produce scientific expertise in an alternative way more in the favor of workers. This paper will analyze the differences between different kinds of expertise (used by institutions and promoted by activists) and will try to understand at which conditions scientific expertise can help to take better into account workers' interests. This paper will also seek to understand why hybridization between social movement and scientific expertise did not occur in the field of occupational health in France, contrary to other fields or other countries. Finally, this paper will also summarize some of the conclusions of a workshop organized on this subject in 2014-2015 with scientific experts, researchers in social science (sociology, political science and STS), unionists and activists.

panel T081
Science and Technology for Social Justice