The social sciences at ANSES
The Agency is regularly required to work on highly controversial subjects involving different types of uncertainty (scientific, social, political, etc.). To more effectively frame the context of certain work, and document aspects that may be useful in the risk assessment process, ANSES integrates the human and social sciences into its expert appraisal activities and calls for research projects.
Overview and purpose
The openness to society of expertise at ANSES also applies to the disciplines that are of use when conducting certain expert appraisals. For several years now, the Agency has been drawing on the human and social sciences (HSS) for various issues. This takes the form of:
internal expertise, mainly driven by the Social Sciences, Expertise & Society Team (which replaced the Risks and Society Unit on 1 August 2017)
- Find out more about the Social Sciences, Expertise & Society Unit
- external expertise, by mobilising experts in these disciplines for certain working groups (see the reports incorporating the social sciences)
academic collaborations/partnerships formalised by research and development agreements, including for example:
the Pragmatic and Reflective Sociology Group (GSPR) at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
- Read the 2011 report "La dose fait-elle toujours le poison : une analyse sociologique des mondes de la recherche et de l’expertise à l’épreuve des faibles doses" ["Is it always the dose that makes the poison? A sociological analysis of the worlds of expert appraisal and research testing for low doses"]
- Read the 2014 report "Une pragmatique des alertes et des controverses en appui à l’évaluation publique des risques" ["A pragmatic approach to alerts and controversies to support public risk assessment"]
the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations/Sciences Po/CNRS
- Read the 2013 report "Contributions opérationnelles des sciences humaines et sociales à l’expertise en santé-alimentation-environnement-travail" ["Operational contribution of the social sciences and humanities to expert appraisal in food safety, environmental health and occupational health"]
- Read the 2015 report "Analyse de la contribution des sciences humaines et sociales à l’expertise de l’ANSES" ["Analysis of the contribution of the human and social sciences to expert appraisal at ANSES"]
- the Pragmatic and Reflective Sociology Group (GSPR) at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
The HSS are also mobilised through:
- research in the social sciences funded by ANSES calls for projects.
- discussions with European agencies and partners
These human and social sciences approaches seek a better understanding of the behaviour and positioning of the stakeholders, the arguments involved, their history and evolution, the conditions of their deployment and their impact in situations of crisis and controversy. They also help shed light on the critical points of an expert appraisal (e.g. the effects of disciplinary framing on the results of the work, characterisation and evaluation of uncertainties in the assessment process, procedures for validating knowledge and the weight of evidence, strengths and limitations of quantitative approaches, etc.), and on its limits of validity and admissibility. They yield analytical information on “societal” concerns surrounding the health issues, both before and after the expert appraisal.
When dealing with particularly complex and controversial topics, such as radiofrequency emissions, nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, animal welfare, etc., the expert groups that are set up incorporate expertise in the HSS. Sociology, political science, psychology, law, economics, history, philosophy, communication sciences, etc. can therefore be mobilised depending on the topic, to supplement the body of knowledge useful for ANSES's work and discussions.
The social sciences are also represented within ANSES's Committee for Ethical Standards and the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest.
Lastly, the various events (symposia, seminars, study days) coordinated or attended by the Agency provide an opportunity to incorporate contributions from the HSS in discussions on the positioning of the Agency's work and its issues.
Find out more