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Scientific advice on the move: the UK mobile phone risk issue as a public experiment

Stilgoe, JEZ; (2016) Scientific advice on the move: the UK mobile phone risk issue as a public experiment. Palgrave Communications , 2 , Article 16028. 10.1057/palcomms.2016.28. Green open access

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Abstract

The UK controversy over the health risks of mobile phones was at its peak around 1999–2000, at a time when policymakers were beginning to endorse moves towards greater openness in the practice of expert advice. One explanation for the subsequent calming of this controversy is that people’s sense of the benefits outweighed the minor uncertainties. However, this fails to explain the politics of mobile phone technology and, by positioning expert advice as neutral, offers no lessons for future expert practice. In this article, I argue that the mobile phones case can more productively be seen as one of public experiment. Rather than seeking closure, experts opened up the issue, made explicit previously obscured uncertainties and invited new research questions. In doing so, they remobilised previously static constructions of both science and public concern. This analysis challenges the distinction between science-as-expertise and science-as-experiment, with important implications for advisory practices and structures. This article is published as part of a thematic collection dedicated to scientific advice to governments.

Type: Article
Title: Scientific advice on the move: the UK mobile phone risk issue as a public experiment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1057/palcomms.2016.28
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/palcomms.2016.28
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1517974
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