Accepted Paper:

The Politics of Science in the GM Controversy  


Aristeidis Panagiotou

Paper short abstract:

If science is politics by other means, then how objective is the role of scientists in policy debates? This presentation aims at identifying the ways that broader interests and personal idiosyncrasies affect scientific findings and also suggest ways that this can be mitigated in policy making.

Paper long abstract:

If science is politics by other means, what is the role of scientists in policy debates? Can scientists be objective arbiters in science-intensive disputes or do they constitute another manifestation of vested interests? The aim of this presentation is threefold. Firstly, to discuss the ways the broader social environment affects the way that scientists produce, reproduce and debate scientific evidence. By drawing on the major strands of STS and Rob Stones' Strong Structuration Theory, it will be suggested that conjuncturally-specific scientific knowledge is only one parameter in the social construction of facts and artifacts. Other, equally salient factors, include the unequal access to resources, the networks of position-practice relations, the actors' habitus, the hierarchization of their priorities and their sentiments towards the conjuncture. Secondly, by synthesizing the work of Connie Ozawa and Brian Wynne, to assess the reasons of scientific disagreement and discuss how subjectivity and objectivity intermesh in the ways that scientists communicate their findings, design their inquiries and interpret the results. Thirdly, to suggest a particular type of consensus-based mediated dialogue as a complementary form of risk governance to formal procedures which mitigates the obfuscation of scientific findings by vested interests and ideological constructs. Concrete examples from the GM controversy will be used throughout the presentation in order to demonstrate the extent to which the scientific aspect of the GM dispute is affected by broader interests, individual motives, and personal idiosyncrasies.

Panel T023
Science Is Politics by Other Means Revisited