The Joys of Truth: Science Policy in the Public Interest


Since 1974, Professor Erik Millstone has been conducting research into the causes and consequences of scientific and technological change in food and agriculture.

In 1987 he joined SPRU where his work has been centered on developing a policy-relevant approach to the sociology of regulatory science and has been highly influential in the areas of food additives, artificial sweeteners, sugar, nutrition, toxicology, BSE, GMOs, biosafety, risk assessment, and more.

In honour of his work in this area and to mark his retirement, six close colleagues provide their thoughts on how the sociology of knowledge can contribute to science and technology policy analysis looking at both lessons from history and an agenda for the future in a ‘light’ Festschrift.

Each contribution to the Festschrift looks at one or more of three topics:

  1. Is ‘realist constructivism’ a distinctive policy-relevant approach to the sociology of scientific knowledge that illuminates scientific and policy debates?
  1. Reflections on the use and limitations of realist-constructivist approaches to the sociology science, particularly in relation to policy analysis, critique and prescription.
  1. What issues and debates could and should such approach be applied in the foreseeable future

The entries are:

Alternative narratives and alternative facts: reflecting on science-policy predicaments through environmental and health lenses in West Africa and the UK, Melissa Leach

Realist constructivist contribution to environmental safety policy for genetically modified crops and foods, Claire Marris

Pastoralism in Africa: some (very brief) realist-constructivist reflections, Ian Scoones

Millstone Grit: putting meaning, courage – and fun – into ‘realist constructivism’ Andy Stirling

Some brief reflections on the past and future of Erik´s contribution to policy-relevant sociology of science, Patrick Van Zwanenberg

Speaking Truth to Power: a philosopher brings Truth, and Science, to Earth, Brian Wynne