Epistemic Regimes - Reconfiguring epistemic quality and the reconstitution of epistemic authority
Location 130
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 4


  • Stefan Böschen (RWTH Aachen University) email
  • Armin Grunwald (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology - KIT) email
  • Sabine Maasen (TUM School of Education) email
  • Andreas Lösch (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology ) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Sabine Maasen (TUM School of Education), Armin Grunwald (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology - KIT)

Short Abstract

Despite there was since years a close look on varying collectives of knowledge production within and outside of science, changes of epistemic quality and authority are not yet comprehensively understood. These dynamics can be interpreted as emergence of epistemic regimes to be explored in the track.

Long Abstract

Within the last 20 years one can observe dynamics of rearranging the borderland between science and society. The participation of laypeople within science ("citizen science", "co-research") and highly institutionalized forms of construction of expertise like in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) are cases in point. These rearrangements do not only transform the institution of science itself, a problem widely addressed, but foremost scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge with its specific criteria of validity is confronted with other kinds of knowledges and their criteria of authenticity, practical relevance or timely availability. Therefore, there are multifaceted processes of changing collectives of producing scientific knowledge observable, which rearrange forms, practices and orders of epistemic authority. These processes we would like to call the emergence of epistemic regimes. With Foucault, epistemic regimes can be seen as set of practices, rules and regulations which not only regulates conflicts about epistemic quality and the acknowledgement of epistemic authority but also forms the preconditions for regulation.

Against this background, we invite papers which address such rearrangements of epistemic quality and epistemic authority. The goal of the track is to explore the spectrum of these phenomena while looking at the different new collectives of knowledge production. They might be situated on a regional level, as real-world experiments or real-world laboratories. But they can also be found on a global level, like the institutionalisation of IPCC or IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) with their own logic of what Sheila Jasanoff called "epistemic subsidiarity".

SESSIONS: 5/5/5/3

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Epistemic cultures, communities or associations: Diverging paths to pursue

Author: Markus Arnold (Universität Klagenfurt)  email

Short Abstract

Different theories, as to what constitutes a collective, underpin different types of STS-research. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the pros and cons of these concepts. A decision, how to refer to these alternate ways of practicing STS, is being called for.

Long Abstract

In STS coexist (contradictory) proposals of how to conceive collectives of knowledge production. There are proposals to think of them as "thought collectives" (Ludwik Fleck), as "scientific communities" (Robert K. Merton, Warren O. Hagstrom), as "epistemic cultures" (Karin Knorr-Cetina), as networked "associations" (Bruno Latour), or as mere exchange relations within "trading zones" of knowledge production (Peter Galison). Each carries its own theoretical assumptions about social relations, epistemic authority, causal links and the questions that one should raise in his or her empirical research.

For example, there are reasons why we should reconsider Bruno Latour's statement that social scientists, when studying collectives, have mistaken the effect for the cause, since "society is not what holds us together, it is what is held together." If we follow this advice, how does it change the way STS conceptualizes "collectives" and the impact of collectives on knowledge production? I will argue that the prize for this bold move may be too high. But does this mean that we have to go back talking again about "values", "communities" and "shared cultures" when we want to explain epistemic authority and shared quality standards? And what should we do then with the non-human actors ANT has so successfully introduced in our research programs?

Different theories, as to what constitutes a collective, underpin different types of STS-research. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the pros and cons of these concepts. A decision, how to refer to these alternate ways of practicing STS, is being called for.

Citizen Science and Making. Questioning Professional Jurisdiction, Reinforcing Scientific Authority

Authors: Sascha Dickel (Johannes Gutenberg University)  email
Sabine Maasen (TUM School of Education)  email

Short Abstract

In our talk, we will discuss two cases of public participation: citizen science and making. While citizen science and making are questioning the jurisdictional claim of academic professions they reinforce the epistemic authority of (techno)science as a cultural practice.

Long Abstract

The majority of STS approaches understand public participation as a form of deliberation, in which publics are invitited to engage with critical aspects of technoscientific innovations by means of moderated discourses. More recently, STS scholars drew attention to variants of public involvement which are not realized in discursive deliberation but rather engage with science and technology in a playful and experimental manner and are typically experienced as forms of leisure.

In our talk, we will discuss two cases of such participation: citizen science and making. In both cases, practices of research and technology design are taking place outside of established institutional spaces and do not require a certified academic expertise. Hence, they might be interpreted as evidences of a blurring of boundaries between science and society and a new fragility of scientific authority.

We suggest that this interpretation is rather one sided and misses the ambivalences of these emerging practices. One the one hand, citizen science and making are questioning the jurisdictional claim of academic professions because they demonstrate that some parts of the work of (techno)scientists can also be done by people who are not members of the respective professions. One the other hand they reinforce the epistemic authority of (techno)science as a cultural practice, because they are not just examples for participatory (knowledge) production - they are also cases of science communication which aims to generate interest for science and technology and seeks to demonstrate the pleasures of science and engineering as forms of life.

Privileged Epistemic Actors, Epistemic Authority, and the Trust & Testimony Approach for Generating Knowledge from Technologies

Author: Ori Freiman (Bar-Ilan University)  email

Short Abstract

I present a theoretical framework of analysis for STS scholars who engage with knowledge-related processes. I show how mechanisms for generating knowledge influence privileged and authoritative epistemic actors and argue for an ethical commitment to force transparency regarding sources.

Long Abstract

The role of technological artifacts is still an open theoretical question in STS. I present a theoretical framework of techno-epistemic analysis for STS scholars who engage with knowledge generation and dissemination. After presenting traditional philosophical approaches to obtaining knowledge from technologies as scattered puzzle pieces, I discuss their limitations. However, building upon these pieces and embedding them in a socio-technological context, I offer a unified analytic framework that uses social epistemic concepts of trust and testimony for analyzing knowledge from technologies. An advantage of this framework, from an STS perspective, is that these concepts are themselves boundary objects between STS and epistemology, allowing scholars to draw from the rich philosophical literature about trust and testimony while preserving central theoretical assumptions of STS.

I show that some mechanisms for generating knowledge can result with unequal social-powers that privileged epistemic actors possess. I stress the unique theoretical place of epistemic authority that actors have in the processes of knowledge dissemination and of belief formation. I then discuss how epistemic actors entitle others justifications for forming new believes not only through their social and authoritative epistemic powers, but also through the epistemic influence of technologies on cognitive abilities and possibilities. I argue that knowledge about the sources of knowledge can reveal privileged and authoritative epistemic actors, and as such it is our ethical commitment, as individuals, social institutions, and technology designers, to do our best in forcing any epistemic regime to be more transparent regarding its sources of knowledge.

Performing Expertise: The Epistemic Work of a Bottom-up Organised Privacy Advocacy Group

Author: Marlene Altenhofer (Institute for Advanced Studies Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the role of forms of expertise and their hybrids for the engagement of a bottom-up organised privacy advocacy group. It will show that institutionalised expertise alone is not sufficient for successful epistemic work of such collectives, but it requires the use of manifold resources.

Long Abstract

In social science literature, specific forms of expertise are considered as important for the success of activist groups in general, and privacy advocacy groups in particular. This paper will look at the role of knowledge and other intellectual resources for the work of an Austrian-based data protection and privacy advocacy collective. From a theoretical and analytical perspective, it does so by using ethno-epistemic assemblages (Irwin & Michael, 2003) as a heuristic device as well as Hilgartner's (2000) concept of front stage and backstage performance of science/expertise. Drawing upon data from semi-structured interviews with members of the analysed group as well as from ethnographic fieldwork, the findings of this study suggest that institutionalised forms of expertise alone are not sufficient for successful epistemic work in privacy advocacy, or even for an epistemic authority of such a collective. By contrast, the studied group uses a broad range of different resources for their engagement, among them tacit skills, experiences, (personal) values, or opinions. These resources, however, are not detached and applied individually, but they are strongly interrelated. This paper will further show that these resources and their hybrids are constantly contested, formed and re-formed; even more so, it will be discussed how these epistemic hybrids take different forms depending on whether the engagement happens within the group or towards a broader public.

Theoretizing Epistemic Regimes - transformative phenomena as reason for transformative theory?

Author: Stefan Böschen (RWTH Aachen University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper suggest a field theoretical approach for analysing the form, structure and dynamic of epistemic regimes. This is relevant while the phenomena of transformation (epistemic quality and authority) cannot be analysed with the approaches established yet.

Long Abstract

The track proposal highlights changes in epistemic quality and authority with the emergence of new interaction zones between different parts of society. Science interferes more intensive and more deeply with other institutionalized fields like economy, politics and the media. Nevertheless, although a broad scope of phenomena were addressed within the last decades, the question remains open how to take these phenomena into consideration. Is there a theory of transformation needed? This might be the case as it is unclear whether there is a fundamental change in the system - or not.

Against this background, this paper aims three things. First, it will shortly gather the multifaceted indices for a change in the system of the production of scientific knowledge. As these indices are not conclusive, the argument is that we need a theory to detect more precisely relevant phenomena of change. Second, it will present a field-theoretical approach to do both to analyse and to critically reflect such phenomena of transformation. In this field-theoretical approach and in contrast to the most prominent ones of Bourdieu and Fligstein/McAdam, I will strengthen and specify the model and role of actors and the relevant forces in the field. Third, it will present a research agenda for empirical studies informed by this perspective.

The Struggle for Epistemic Superiority in Medical Research

Authors: Alexander Christian (University of Duesseldorf)  email
Christian Feldbacher (University of Duesseldorf)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper parts of the recent debate on defects in medical research are re-framed by help of the notion of knowledge regimes; with this notion also the socio-political perspective on changes in relevant collectives can be spelled out adequately.

Long Abstract

A wider public has recently become aware of problems with moral integrity in medical and pharmaceutical research. Clinical trials have come to be viewed more distrustfully due to incidents like the suppression of evidence in the Tamiflu® case (Payne, 2012) or harms to test-subjects like the death of a proband in France in January 2016 (Ministère-des-Affaires-Sociales, 2016-01-15). Such defects lead, amongst others, to an alarming loss of trust in research generally. Simultaneously, the discussion of good scientific practice has focused on the prevention of bias and the limitation of the corruptive influence of conflicts of interest (Lieb et al, 2011).

In philosophy of science and research ethics is a tendency to treat institutional responses to corrupting influences as pro-/reactive measures which are installed to secure the integrity of research. We will reconstruct recent rearrangements of epistemic authorities in medical and pharmaceutical research in terms of conflicting regimes (e.g., Gibbons et al, 1994) and their struggle for epistemic superiority. We first present recent changes in medical research like the introduction of clinical trial registries and the codification of corresponding guidelines in medical journals. Our thesis is that the broad concept of epistemic regimes provides a fruitful framework, since it allows for the inclusion of a socio-political perspective on changing of collectives in academia, industry, and public authorities. Furthermore, we discuss mechanisms underlying the faults between these communities by help of social epistemological models. Therein virtues and vices of feedback-loops, communication (Zollman, 2007), and interaction between the mentioned communities are pointed out.

Cultivating radiological vision through highlighting

Author: Peter Winter (University of Sheffield)  email

Short Abstract

Using video footage, I explore highlighting practice in the early stages of radiological vision in the epistemic culture of medicine. My analysis contributes to discussion on the development of professional vision and embodied skill, while contributing insight to a regime of interpretive practice.

Long Abstract

STS has previously identified coding and highlighting practices (Goodwin 1994) among radiology professionals in the production and interpretation of medical images. However, as yet there appears to have been no attempt to study the ways in which these practices are learned. My focus then, is on the highlighting practices found in undergraduate medical students' training. I explore the teaching practices of radiologists in an academic setting that is 'backstage' to the clinical and workplace setting. Drawing on Goodwin's notion of professional vision, the paper presents how highlighting work is imbued with meaning for those learning to 'see' or 'read' medical images and shows how highlighting helps to cultivate a radiological vision of normal and abnormal physiologies. Using video footage and novel video analytical techniques, I will show how highlighting practice can take multiple forms such as: hydrographic (specifically the symbolic language of erosion and flood control); and geometric, including shapes such as ellipses, arrows, zig-zags, dots, and 'blobs'. I will also show how the highlighting of lines and shapes had two functions: to make salient physiologies that are present in the x-ray; and to make salient physiologies that are absent in the x-ray. This paper contributes to an understanding of the diverse practices that are used to build professional or radiological vision. Doing so will tease out some of the creative techniques that allows the professional to speak authoritatively on what they see, while imbuing students themselves with epistemic authority in apprenticeship.

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Making Sense and Use of Big Data: The Epistemic Challenge

Author: Georgios Kolliarakis (University of Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines a series of epistemic blinders in current BD analytics for security: 1) the empiricist conflation of data, information, and knowledge; 2) the commitment of serious inference errors by algorithmic processing, and 3) the distraction of BD R&D from 2nd-order non-intended effects.

Long Abstract

This paper examines from an epistemic perspective the current hype around Big Data (BD) in S&T and policy contexts. Increasing access to and processing of data about /by citizens seems to have given a novel twist to the post-normal science (Ravetrz & Funtowicz), and the Mode-2 of knowledge production (Gibbons, Nowotny et al.) debates of the 1990s. While the potential practical benefits from drawing upon so many, diverse, real-time, action-centred data are obvious, most R&D endeavours set to exploit that new richness of data sources stress "what", but often blend out "what for" and "how" questions. This paper consequently examines three aspects: 1) The empiricist conflation of data into information into (actionable) knowledge, where algorithmic automatisms claim to produce correlational patterns, avoiding biased causal mechanisms ("new objectivity"); 2) The radical deprivation of macro-pattern analytics from micro-contextualisation, and the risks for validity, reliability and relevance of inference and evaluation (Type I, Type II, and Type III errors); and 3) the emergence of organisational ecologies on the interface of policy, research, and the market. These promote high-tech solutionist understandings of innovation in BD applications, suppressing thereby the reflection about non-intended/non-anticipated 2nd order impacts. The paper will use illustrative cases from current BD research in public security-relevant fields, and touch upon the question of what should count as evidence, but also upon the questions of accountability diffusion in producing and instrumentalizing knowledge.

Producing 'relevant knowledge' in transdisciplinary sustainability research - Researchers' sense-making of and coping with 'epistemic commitments' in heterogeneous projects

Author: Andrea Schikowitz (University of Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

This paper investigates how researchers in a transdisciplinary research program make sense out of their ‘epistemic commitments’ and reconcile them with other understandings of ‘relevant knowledge’ they encounter in heterogeneous teams.

Long Abstract

What knowledge is needed for approaching challenges like climate change or loss of natural resources has been debated since more than twenty years. Policy makers and scholars alike, claim that such knowledge should be 'integrative'. It should include societal concerns and values, transgress disciplinary boundaries, and include local and practice relevant knowledge. Yet, the success of initiatives and programs that promise such a radical transformation of knowledge production seems to be limited. Instead of more inclusive science-society relations, what could be termed 'managerial research governance' has become hegemonic. Competition and specialised output-orientation in terms of individual publication records are constitutive for contemporary knowledge production, rather than knowledge production as a joint process of mutual learning.

Against this backdrop, this paper investigates what social and epistemic effects initiatives for 'integrative knowledge' might trigger. Analysing a major Austrian research program for transdisciplinary sustainability research, I look at the interplay between research governance and researchers' sense-making in research practice. The researchers who engage in transdisciplinary projects need to make transdisciplinarity do-able in their specific situations. I analyse how researchers re-negotiate their 'epistemic commitments' (Granjou and Arpin, 2015) and reconcile them with other understandings of 'relevant knowledge' they encounter in transdisciplinary research - the requirements of the program, the diverse knowledge demands that different actors carry into research, and the kinds of knowledge that are valued within scientific disciplines - and that researchers need to secure their career and position within science.

The ADHD subjectivity template: patient "activism" in the Internet era

Author: Amelie Hoshor (University of Gothenburg)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring the ADHD “template for subjectivity” that patients present online, and drawing on fieldwork in Sweden, this paper discerns a rearrangement of the epistemic regimes within the domain of psychiatry as young patients actively appropriate and resist the expert category of ADHD.

Long Abstract

The era of the Internet, social media and selfie sticks offers patients increased epistemic authority, as it allows them to take on the role of directors—and not just actors—in the broader production of psychiatric iconographies. This paper considers ADHD as a "template" for subjectivity, as it is conveyed online (e.g. Youtube, memes) by patients who describe what it is like to live with the condition. I suggest that patient accounts of ADHD are central to the viral propagation of this diagnosis. They eschew the need to resort to a technical clinical language, often adopt a humoristic tone, have an endearing appeal, and tend to ignite a strong sense of familiarity or self-recognition. Drawing on fieldwork in Sweden, including participant observation at a neuropsychiatric unit, I proceed with an analysis of the interaction between the ADHD diagnosis and the young people who receive it. In so doing, I wish to put some flesh on the bones of Ian Hacking's philosophy on the "making up" of people, by querying what the possibilities there are for young individuals to play along with—or against—this diagnosis (cf. Johannisson 2015, 87). My analysis suggests that young individuals often (pro)actively seek out, internalize, enact, and instrumentally employ the ADHD subjectivity template. Others resist it, often through "everyday forms" of resilience such as diagnostic foot-dragging (Scott 1985). The appropriation of and resistance against this expert category point to a rearrangement of the epistemic regimes within the domain of (neuro)psychiatry.

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

Authors: Axel Philipps (University of Siegen)  email
Eva Barlösius (Leibniz University Hannover)  email

Short Abstract

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

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.

The experimental setting as an epistemic regime in the German energy system transition

Authors: Franziska Engels (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)  email
Dagmar Simon (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)  email

Short Abstract

The presentation is an empirical investigation of the formation and functioning of an epistemic regime. Within the experimental setting of a regional real-world laboratory the generation of a common knowledge base happens through a selection of plural forms of evidence.

Long Abstract

The German energy system transition is characterized by complex kinds of knowledge, a high degree of non-knowledge and a general uncertainty caused by the existence of plural future scenarios. Under these conditions, the socio-epistemic space is contested: established forms of knowledge compete and in addition new actors of knowledge emerge.

Looking at the phenomenon of a so-called real-world laboratory on a regional level, we raise the question, which actors and kinds of knowledge in innovation processes will prevail. We argue, that the generation of knowledge - for the exploration of a suitable path into the future post-fossil society - happens through a selection of plural forms of evidence.

The empirical subject of our research is a regional innovation initiative characterized by a heterogeneous actor constellation and striving for a pioneering role in the realization of the energy policy objectives. It tries to create a common knowledge space ("Wissensraum") through a participatory process. We shed light on the negotiation and validation processes: the generation, collation, validation and use of various forms of knowledge.

Our research reveals empirical insights that seem to be paradoxical: In particular, the uncertain future and the diverging expectations towards the experimental setting open up rooms for maneuver and areas of cooperation. Our findings indicate, that epistemic authority is achieved if knowledge is available for use and enables action. In our case of research, scientific knowledge satisfies a legitimizing and stabilizing function by combining itself with other kinds of knowledge and transforming it into practical relevance.

Testing Regulation: the European politics of animal experimentation from Victorian Britain to 'Stop Vivisection'

Authors: Pierre-Luc Germain (European Institute of Oncology)  email
Luca Chiapperino (University of Lausanne)  email
Giuseppe Testa (European Institute of Oncology / University of Milan)  email

Short Abstract

This paper identifies a common political struggle behind historically situated rhetorics on the ‘evil of animal experimentation’. In our view, animals and their interests are more the locus than the focus of the debate, revealing broader tensions around science and its democratic accountability.

Long Abstract

This paper identifies a common political struggle behind historically situated rhetorics on the 'evil of animal experimentation'. In our view, animals and their interests are more the locus than the focus of the debate, revealing broader tensions around science and its insulation from democratic accountability.

We develop this argument elaborating upon three empirical cases. The first is early antivivisectionism in late XIX and early XX century, which provides evidence of how such movements, more than grappling with animals' moral interests, voiced deeper political concerns for the misalignment of scientists with public interest. The second is the Italian debate surrounding the implementation of the European Directive 2010/63/EC regulating the use of animals in biomedical research. We show that this debate re-enacted the same XIX century controversies in that today's scientists, while no longer perceived as sadistic, are framed through socio-economic dimensions that partly echo the often perverse logic attributed to XIX century vivisectors. Third comes the European Citizen Initiative (ECI) 'Stop Vivisection', which adds a nuanced, institutionalised uptake on the political efforts at framing and handling animal experimentation as a matter of collective, founding values for a community in the making (i.e. the EU).

The paper concludes that highlighting the common socio-political conflict at the basis of our case studies fleshes out a core testing ground for regulatory closure of these debates; namely, the need to explore modes of authority and argumentation establishing the usefulness of animal experimentation, that do not re-enact the traditional divide between epistemic and moral evaluations.

A failed epistemic authority on unconventional hydrocarbons: A study of the European Science and Technology Network

Authors: Aleksandra Lis (Adam Mickiewicz University)  email
Kärg Kama (University of Birmingham)  email
Leonie Reins (Tilburg University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on ethnographic account as participating experts, we report on the initiation and premature closure of a particular expert network, called the European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction (‘UH-Network’).

Long Abstract

The paper presents competing knowledge claims over the desirability and feasibility of 'fracking' and struggles over expert authority within a European Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbons. Knowledge on impacts of fracking originated from three sources: from the U.S. reports, from empirical studies conducted by the Polish Geological Institute and from civil society organizations. While, the U.S. knowledge became excluded as irrelevant for the European experience, the Polish knowledge was authorized as relevant and inserted into the network's official database. At the same time, knowledge on the environmental and health impacts of fracking produced by civil society groups was gradually excluded as emotional, irrelevant and methodologically not strict enough. The paper presents an ethnographic account of the interactions between these types of knowledge and analyses how the knowledge controversy became politicized and de-politicized in public. Here, we note that the public knowledge controversy was more narrowly played out over procedural issues regarding the network's setup and legitimacy, specifically whether it should have qualified as the Commission's 'expert groups' subject to public registration and scrutiny. The scientific controversy became rehearsed as a case of wider political controversies related to the transparency and legitimacy of advisory expertise in Brussels, while expert disputes were carefully disguised from the public view. We associate the failure to establish the network as an epistemic authority on unconventional hydrocarbons with the lack of a shared understanding of what counts as 'the political' which led to a stalemate between the simultaneous 'politicization' and 'scientification' of the network.

Contesting the Technological Zone: Local Responses to the Challenges of Knowing Impacts from Unconventional Gas Developments in Queensland, Australia

Author: Martin Espig (University of Queensland)  email

Short Abstract

Unconventional coal seam gas (CSG) extraction in Australia has sparked controversies over its impacts. Knowing these risk is frequently dependent on technological devices and complex modelling. I explore locals’ contestations of these ‘technological zones’ and the politics of knowledge-making.

Long Abstract

The rapid development of unconventional coal seam gas (CSG) reserves in agricultural regions in the Australian state of Queensland has caused ongoing complex social controversies over projects' risks and potential impacts. Especially local actors are required to make sense of these developments and the resulting reconfiguration of their social and physical environments. However, this sense-making can be problematic since technical procedures mainly take place underground and surface impacts potentially occur beyond immediate phenomenological experience. Most of the impacts are therefore primarily understood and debated via abstract, often limited and even conflicting scientific knowledge claims. As such, their legitimate knowability is frequently reliant upon technological devices and complex modelling, or access restricted 'technological zones'.

Following ethnographic fieldwork in Queensland's expanding gas fields, I explore these problems of knowing and locals' attempts to be recognized participants in the resulting epistemic debates by contesting the 'technological zone'. I specifically focus on two different examples of grassroots participation: individuals' use of technical devices and independent scientific testing, and a government-led citizen science water monitoring programme. Both cases illustrate how historically authoritative institutions and regulatory processes of generating legitimate (scientific) knowledge are challenged within contemporary industrialized societies. As I argue, however, what is contested are not techno-scientific ways of knowing per se, but rather the acceptable production and application of such claims. Local responses to the challenges of CSG developments thus illustrate the rearrangement of epistemic authority and how we may think otherwise about equitable participation in the social controversies at the extractive frontier.

Classifying, Regulating, Breeding: Transnational Fractures in Epistemic Regimes of Toxicity

Author: Lucas Mueller (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

Epistemic regimes of toxin control gained their authority not necessarily through neatly aligning sites of expert authority and research. Rather, the sites’ divergent histories underwrite the authority and persistence of such regimes, shown in a study of aflatoxins in the UK and India since 1960.

Long Abstract

Over the last half-century, epistemic regimes concerned with the study, assessment, and control of toxic substances have proliferated on national, supranational, and international scales. Such regimes of regulatory authority and of knowledge-making have been usefully analyzed through the framework of co-production (Jasanoff). Building on co-production and studies on the longue durée of technoscientific governance (Pestre), this paper analyzes research and control of aflatoxins, carcinogenic substances produced by fungi growing on crops, in the United Kingdom and India and at the WHO-affiliated International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 1960. Based on archival research and interviews in India and the UK and at IARC, this presentation investigates the emergence, fragmentation, and convergence of epistemic regimes concerned with studying, classifying and controlling aflatoxins across sites of knowledge-making and territories of expert authority. It argues that the apparent persistence of such an expert regime and its object of control, aflatoxins, can be attributed to the fragmented, yet interacting, histories of scientific and political institutions and of research practices. In this narrative, aflatoxins emerge as a multivalent scientific objects in scientific, social, and political trajectories of cancer control (United Kingdom) and nutrition research (India). It is then exactly aflatoxins' polvyvalence that makes it a precedent setting case in a crossnational epistemic regime for controlling toxic substances.

Openness in Global Advisory Groups

Author: Sameea Ahmed Hassim (Université Libre de Bruxelles)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to highlight how openness is practiced in two global advisory groups. The case studies examined are the World Health Organization's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts in Immunization (SAGE) and UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC)

Long Abstract

Boundary organizations are theorized as sites that straddle the interface between science and politics (Guston, 1999). Of importance in global governance is the idea of openness. This paper aims to analyze the kinds of strategies global boundary organizations use to convince interested and affected parties that they are the authorities in the field, including openness. It analyses interactions in the process of knowledge production in the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts in Immunization (WHO) and the International Bioethics Committee (UNESCO), bringing empirical evidence to light about how the organizations shape knowledge of science and technology in global governance.

Organizing experts. IPBES and the construction of epistemic authority.

Author: Karin M Gustafsson (Örebro University)  email

Short Abstract

IPBES was founded to become an international epistemic authority by organizing experts on biodiversity. This study explores IPBES organizational structure, through which expertise are determined and enrolled, showing how expertise and epistemic authority have important organizational preconditions.

Long Abstract

Through a study of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES), this study explores what role organizational preconditions play for the constitution of expertise and the construction of epistemic authority. The IPBES has been described as an organizational blue print of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). By organizing the world's experts on biodiversity, IPBES set out to produce policy-relevant knowledge. However, while IPCC is delimited to organize scientific knowledge, IPBES also acknowledges the importance to find ways to synthetize different knowledge forms, including indigenous and local knowledges. Thus, for IPBES, policy-relevant knowledge is created through the enrolment of fundamentally different knowledge practices and multiple forms of experts.

In the light of IPBES's ambitions to become an epistemic authority through synthetization of heterogeneous knowledge forms, we need to revisit the classic questions of who is an expert and its relation to epistemic authority. What does expert mean for IPBES and how does the expert contribute shape the epistemic authority of the IPBES?

Based on a combination of documents and interviews, this study explores the organizational structure of IPBES through which expertise are determined and experts enrolled. Experts and expertise has previously been understood as either created relationally, or as being qualities possible to acquire. However, the result of this study shows how expertise and epistemological authority also have important organizational preconditions. IPBES's institutional design is pivotal in the making of expert and the shaping of the epistemic authority of IPBES.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.