Risk Regulations and Scientific Expertise in the United Kingdom: The Precautionary Principle in Public Policy

Author: Patterson, Alan
This book examines how governments deal with the problem of how science can achieve the objective of developing wealth-creating technologies, and at the same time solve the problems for people and the environment that such technologies cause, by evaluating the role of science in policymaking in Britain.


“Perhaps the fundamental issue that underlies most of [the] questions [examined in this work] is the dilemma posed for all governments – how to benefit from the gravitas which supportive scientific advice adds to a policy decision, without appearing to pressure scientists into giving the ‘right’ advice, which threatens their independent status and thereby renders their support valueless. In this book, Patterson helps us to understand the nature of this tightrope which every government has to walk.” - Prof. Tim Gray, Newcastle University

“Because of its in-depth analysis and focus on particular policy decisions of the British Government’s scientific advice system as they have worked in previous years, this book is a valuable addition to the academic literature. . .” – Prof. David Welsh, Northumbria University

“Patterson’s book adds weight to the claim that sound science has continued to be a dominant discourse among (UK) policymakers despite rhetorical commitments to the precautionary principle. Moreover, it shows the complexity of the relationship between science and politics—making clear that ‘sound science’ is a label for a discursive understanding of policymaking and not a defensible set of methodological commitments to which all scientists (and by extension policymakers) should be committed.” – Prof. Derek Bell, Newcastle University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Science and Society
1: The governance of science in Britain – setting the context
2: The governance of science in Britain – theoretical perspectives
3: Case Study 1
4: Case Study 2
5: Case Study 3
6: Case Study 4
7: Conclusions – A comparative analysis of the case studies
Appendix 1: List of interviewees
Appendix 2: The science advisory system
Appendix 3: Characteristics of sound science and precaution
Appendix 4: Organophosphates in sheep dip
Appendix 5: GM crops lobbying organizations
Appendix 6: BSE – Membership of Southwood Committee
Appendix 7: MMR - Comparative research