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Impacts of disqualification by scientists in an environmental dispute

Abstract : Note : This paper has been written as a follow-up of a seminar called DEFORM Project workshop in 2017, on Research Quality, Integrity and Misconduct. This paper was sent as the end of 2017 for publication, but the review process is taking longer than expected. A short note at the end has been added to explain how the social setting also evolved. What was predicted by some opponents to the industry (and that « reasonable colleagues » refused to hear) has happened more or less in the expected timing. Abstract: This paper describes the place of disqualification in an environmental dispute in which scientists, although supposedly representing neutrality and reason, express publicly their opinion in place of constructed knowledge. This has an impact in terms of trust in science for the general public, can destroy the possibility to do field work, especially when the problem under study (here a pollution issue) is strongly linked to scientific activity, but can even generate a serious delay in a political process. The disqualification of others being very often observed in academics, an institution should be designed to solve disqualification issues with civility. In this paper I wish to address an issue that can impact in the organization of public decision making in France, when decisions are made, in a way or another, based on scientific expertise. The problem at stake is the rather easy apparition of disqualification in the academic world-be it to qualify "others" (from the outside of academics) or "colleagues". The paper describes a field study on an environmental conflict, during which disqualification was present and had a massive impact on the political and scientific dynamics. It happens that there is no regulation body concerning the behaviours of researchers in public space or the spreading of reputation, and no incentive to self-regulate. In the contemporary context, power relations associated to the capture of rent through massive projects can conduct to weird positions when the capture of speech is made by people with low ethical standards, against whom no claim can be made. This dynamics is part of the functioning of the fabric of doubt, as studied by Proctor's famous agnotology (Proctor and Schiebinger, 2008). This problem is here documented in a specific case of involvement of french scholars in expertise. We conclude on the impact of institutions that frame this type of political conflict and that allow scientific misconduct.
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Contributor : Juliette Rouchier Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, January 10, 2020 - 12:22:03 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 10:12:49 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, April 11, 2020 - 4:54:25 PM


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Juliette Rouchier. Impacts of disqualification by scientists in an environmental dispute. 2020. ⟨hal-02434776⟩



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