Beyond the Species Barrier: the Health Council of the Netherlands, legitimacy and the making of objectivity

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The health council of the netherlands is an independent scientific advisory board to the dutch government in matters of public health. In this article we argue that even for an independent body such as the health council there seems to be no escape from the increasing intertwinement of scientific and societal processes. In order to produce a serviceable truth for policymaking, the council needs to reflect on what goes on in its socio-political surroundings. On the other hand, how could we ever come to understand the legitimacy of the council when notions of scientific objectivity dissolve in such a reflexive, inherently political stance? in a situation where science and society are thoroughly interrelated, the health council somehow succeeds in bringing about or re-claiming some sense of objectivity. Our central question will be how to conceptualise this notion of ‘objectivity’ without having to rely on idealized notions of objectivity that are criticized in philosophical, sociological and historical studies of science and society. In order to do so, we will regard the objectivity of advisory reports of the health council as being constructed out of heterogeneous elements and under complex circumstances. The theoretical point will be empirically underpinned with case material drawn from activities of the health council in the period 1985–2002 in predominantly the subject areas healthcare and medical technology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-295
JournalSocial epistemology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

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