Accepted Paper:

Bringing social science into food safety agencies: the European Food Safety Authority perspective  


Giulia Nicolini (European Food Safety Authority)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will consider the drivers behind the European Food Safety Authority's aspiration to incorporate social science into its work, starting with an overview of how social science is used in food safety agencies, and concluding with an outlook on the future for social science at EFSA.

Paper long abstract:

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a legal mandate to both assess risks in the food chain, and communicate about them to the public. In response to general criticisms of the status of science in society, and the production of scientific knowledge about food safety risks in particular, EFSA is exploring how social science research might contribute to making its science more transparent and trustworthy.

The paper will provide an overview of how food safety agencies have approached social science in their work, and what EFSA might learn from these successes and shortcomings as it forges its own path forward. It will consider the internal and external drivers which have motivated the development of a social science programme, including a perceived need to 'contextualise risk assessment'. In so doing, it will also consider the way in which food can foster greater collaborations between science and society, and between natural and social scientists.

While interdisciplinarity has been a major theme within STS, there is a particular urgency inherent in the collaborations which take place over and around food, and especially food safety, which is sometimes a 'life-or-death' matter. Finally then, the paper will explore possible configurations for meetings between risk assessment agencies and other actors in the food chain.

Panel C28
Meetings over and around food