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Scientific decision-making and stakeholder consultations: The case of salt recommendations

Timotijevic, L, Barnett, J, Brown, KA, Raats, MM and Shepherd, R (2013) Scientific decision-making and stakeholder consultations: The case of salt recommendations Social Science & Medicine, 85. pp. 79-86.

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Scientific Advisory Bodies (SABs) are seen as “boundary organisations” working at the interface between science, policy and society. Although their narrowly defined remit of risk assessment is anchored in notions of rationality, objectivity, and reason, in reality, their sources for developing recommendations are not limited to scientific evidence. There is a growing expectation to involve non-scientific sources of information in the formation of knowledge, including the expectation of stakeholder consultation in forming recommendations. Such a move towards “democratisation” of scientific processes of decision making within SABs has been described and often studied as “post-normal science” (PNS) (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993). In the current paper we examine the application of PNS in practice through a study of stakeholder consultations within the workings of the UK Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition (SACN). We use the theoretical insights from PNS-related studies to structure the analysis and examine the way in which PNS tenets resonate with the practices of SACN. We have selected a particular case of the SACN UK recommendations for salt as it is characterized by scientific controversy, uncertainty, vested interests and value conflict. We apply the tenets of PNS through documentary analysis of the SACN Salt Subgroup (SSG) consultation documents published in 2002/2003: the minutes of the 5 SACN SSG’s meetings which included summary of the SACN SSG’s stakeholder consultation and the SSG’s responses to the consultation. The analysis suggests that the SACN consultation can be construed as a process of managing sources of risk to its organisation. Thus, rather than being an evidence of post normal scientific practice, engagement became a mechanism for confirming the specific framing of science that is resonant with technocratic models of science holding authority over the facts. The implications for PNS theory are discussed. The work herein has been carried out within the EURRECA Network of Excellence (, financially supported by the Commission of the European Communities, Specific Research Technology and Development (RTD) Programme Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources within the sixth framework programme, contract no. 0136196. This does not necessarily reflect the Commission’s views or its future policy in this area. We would like to acknowledge the contribution made to editing of the article from Israel Berger, University of Surrey. No conflicts of interest have been declared by authors.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Psychology
Authors :
Timotijevic, L
Barnett, J
Brown, KA
Raats, MM
Shepherd, R
Date : 28 February 2013
DOI : 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.02.032,
Related URLs :
Additional Information : "NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Social Science & Medicine. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Social Science & Medicine, in press, February 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.02.032
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 13 Mar 2013 13:40
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 15:01

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