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Science and precaution in interactive technology risk management

Research project OA/01 (Research action OA)


Persons :

  • M.  VALENDUC Gérard - Fondation Travail-Université ASBL (FTU)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2001-31/12/2005
  • Dr.  GOORDEN Lieve - Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 15/12/2001-31/12/2005

Description :

Context

The project is related to three areas of research on sustainable development policy:

- the relation between science and policy;
- the interpretation and implementation of a precautionary approach in policy;
- open and interactive policymaking.

The paradigm of the ‘social construction of science’, which has been put forward in the sociology of science, offers a broader perspective on the interface between knowledge and policy. In order that the proposed arrangement should tie in with a precautionary approach, we shall relate it to a number of important policy documents on precaution. Two research areas on sustainable development policy can provide a foundation for the interactive and participatory component of the arrangement we aim to develop: the theory of a ‘tentative approach’ to sustainable development ; the literature on interactive and argumentative governance.


Project description

Objectives

As risk management in technology development becomes more complex, and uncertainties with regard to the nature and scope of the risks involved continue to grow, the focus tends to shift quite easily from science (which offers no certainty) to policy measures based on a precautionary approach. We need to re-examine how knowledge can contribute to a policy inspired by a precautionary approach. A policy on technology and risk management should ideally be founded on available scientific knowledge, characterised by scepticism, transparency, independence and accountability. Yet, science alone does not offer conclusive answers, as risk-analysis is intrinsically linked with uncertainties, presuppositions, value judgements and compromise for the sake of scientific consensus.

The evaluation of technological risks should therefore be carried out in an open and pluralistic way, which allows for critical dialogue as an essential part of technology development and regulation. Thus, we need to strive towards a more effective arrangement in the relationship between science and policy, whereby methods are put forward for dealing with scientific certainties/uncertainties and for establishing normative standards within a precautionary framework.


Methodology

Document analysis, personal interviews and focus groups, Delphi rounds.
The focus of this research project is on two types of relationship that provide support for decision-making with regard to technology and risk management:

- the relationship between external experts and experts working within government institutions involved in risk analysis and management. By external experts, we mean academics and consultants who, either on a regular or an ad hoc basis, reside in advisory committees that provide support in decision-making to experts within the civil service (e.g. bio-safety board, food-safety agency, government body that manages professional hazards...). (Partner STEM)

- the relationship between experts within private enterprises and experts within the civil service. Experts from private companies include technology developers, environmental and safety experts. Often, these experts are supported by external consultants and intermediary scientific advisory committees. (Partner FTU)


Interaction between the different partners

1. two separate research lines

Study of literature
Preparing the case-studies
Selecting the case-studies
Research methodology for the case-studies
Case-studies
Reporting

2. a moment of integration

Comparing the case-studies
Workshop for the user-group
Study of Literature
Concerted Report

3. a joint research focus

First draft of an effective arrangement of knowledge-policy
Preparation of Delphi inquiry
Delphi-research
Final report of the research project
Redaction of a guide
Closing workshop


Expected Results

Research report with a vision on science and precaution on the basis of an empirical evaluation of the theoretical framework by means of case studies.

An audit of four cases with:

- an analysis of the problem areas that manifest themselves in the interactions between and arguments put forward by external experts, as well as in their relationships with experts from the civil service during the assessment process, and the application of assessments in policymaking;
- formulation of common problems and solution strategies with which the actors involved in each case study can identify maximally.

A guide for establishing an effective arrangement for the incorporation of knowledge in policy on technology and risks in a precautionary perspective.


Partners

Activities and coordinates/details

1. Study Centre Technology Energy Environment (STEM)- Faculty of Applied Economic Sciences, University of Antwerp

Research cluster: Technology Assessment and sustainable development. Through its research activities, the TA team within STEM intends to support the debate on techno-scientific developments and applications. Such debate is seen as a precondition to sound judgement in the social arena and in policy processes.

Dr. Lieve Goorden
STEM
Kleine Kauwenberg 12
B-2000 Antwerp
Tel: +32 (0)3 220 48 90; Fax: +32 (0)3 220 49 01
lieve.goorden@ua.ac.be
http://www.ufsia.ac.be/STEM

2. Work and Technology Research Centre - Fondation Travail-Université ASBL (FTU)

The main purpose of the Work & Technology Research Centre of the FTU is to develop a capacity of research, analysis and intervention on the social aspects of technological changes. The current activities of the Work & Technology Research Centre address three research areas:

- Technology assessment, technology and society.
- Information society, work and employment.
- Innovation, environment and sustainable development.

Mr Gérard Valenduc
FTU
Rue de l’Arsenal 5
B-5000 Namur
Tel: +32 (0)81 72 51 22; Fax: +32 (0)81 72 51 28
gvalenduc@compuserve.com
http://www.ftu-namur.org


Users Committee

- Martin Besieux - Greenpeace Belgium - Bruxelles
- Caroline Bossuyt - FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de Voedselketen en Leefmilieu - Federale Diensten voor het Leefmilieu - Brussel
- Martine Delanoy - FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de Voedselketen en Leefmilieu - DG Dier Plant en Voeding - Afdeling Grondstoffen en Plantenbescherming - Brussel
- Marc De Greef - Prevent - Bruxelles
- Eric De Marco - Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens - Mons
- Yann Devos - Wetenschappelijk Instituut Volksgezondheid, Louis Pasteur - Bioveiligheid en Biotechnologie, Bioveiligheidsraad - Brussel
- Gilbert Eggermont - Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie (SCK-CEN) - Programma Humane Wetenschappen - Brussel
- Jeanine Ferreira Marques - SPF Santé publique, Sécurité de la Chaîne alimentaire et Environnement - Services fédéraux pour les Affaires environmentales - Service Maîtrise des risques - Bruxelles
- Marcel Gehlen - Union Wallonne des Entreprises - Cellule écogestion - Wavre
- Myriam Gerard - Réseau Intersyndical de Sensibilisation à l'Environnement - FEC - CSC - Brussel
- Evelyn Hooft - Nationale Instelling voor Radioactief Afval en verrijkte Splijtstoffen - Brussel
- Robert Huysman - SPF Santé publique, Sécurité de la Chaîne alimentaire et Environnement - Services fédéraux pour les Affaires environmentales - Bruxelles (suppléant)
- Karen Janssens
- Robert Martens - FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de Voedselketen en Leefmilieu - Federale Diensten voor het Leefmilieu - Brussel (plaatsvervanger)
- Bernard Mazijn - FOD Volksgezondheid, Veiligheid van de Voedselketen en Leefmilieu - Federale Diensten voor het Leefmilieu - Brussel (plaatsvervanger)
- Gaston Meskens - Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie (SCK-CEN) - Brussel
- Marianne Petitjean - Ministère de la Région Wallonne - Direction générale des Ressources Naturelles et de l'Environnement (DGRNE) - Services Technologies Propres - Jambes
- Jean-François Rivez - Ministère de la Région Wallonne - Services Technologies Propres - Direction générale des Ressources Naturelles et de l’Environnement (DGRNE) - Jambes
- Valentine Vanhove - Nationale Instelling voor Radioactief Afval en verrijkte Splijtstoffen - Brussel
- Laurent Vogel - Bureau Technique syndical européen pour la santé et la sécurité - Bruxelles
- Machteld Wauters - Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap - Administratie Gezondheidszorg - Brussel
- Dirk Wildemeersch - Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap - Administratie Gezondheidszorg - Vlaamse Gezondheidsinspectie - Brussel


Documentation :

Science and precaution in interactive risk evaluation - SPIRE : final report  Deblonde, Marian - Barriat, Valérie-Anne - Warrant, Françoise ... et al  Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2005 (SP1555)
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