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  3. The Human Genre Project

Genomics Forum · Events

Expertise and public decision making in the Risk Society - Lessons from the French Experience

Past event   16.06.2006






Pierre-Benoit Joly, INRA/TSV, Ivry


Boardroom, ESRC Genomics Forum (3rd Floor, St John's Land)


Event details


In most European countries, a series of scandals and crises (contaminated blood, asbestos, BSE, GMOs, etc.) put scientific expertise under intensive public attention during the 1990s. This prompted major institutional transformations in order to boost the legitimacy of expertise and public decision making. As a result, norms of good expertise, procedures and models of organisation were much discussed in political arena as well as in the arena of social sciences. This also raised a specific issue: how to handle “new risks” characterised by a high uncertainty, lack of expert knowledge, a high complexity of the socio-natural processes and a contested frame of expertise.This presentation aims at highlighting the main issues and oppositions debated and their relations with changes of practices. We argue that current transformations fail to address “new risks” in a proper way and that they do not either lead to a democratisation of expertise because they stick on a rather positivist view of the relation between science and politics.

Biographical details:

Pierre-Benoit Joly is a research director at France’s National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA). He holds a degree in agronomy (1982) and a PhD in economics (1987). In January 2003, he became the director of the Research Unit TSV (Social Transformations related to Life Sciences and Life Forms). He has participated in numerous European research projects.

He is currently a Member of the PRIME Network of Excellence on Policies for Research and Innovation in Europe. He has published about one hundred articles (more than 50 in refereed journals) and two books. He has also coordinated five special issues of social sciences journals. He has been a member of several boards at INRA. Since 2001, he has been the president of the Scientific Board of the Scientific Interest Group (GIS), a kind of consortium of scientific organisations, on ‘Collective risks and crisis situations’. He also teaches at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Cachan

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