From population control politics to chemicals: the WHO as an intermediary organization in contraceptive development

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Abstract

Studies of laboratory work have rarely focused on the role of intermediary organizations in developing R&D activities. Most studies focus on a single university-based research laboratory or an industrial R&D unit. Moreover, the rejection by social constructivist scholars of universalistic, deterministic explanations of the development of science and technology has led to an overemphasis on the local features of scientific and technological work. Based on a case study of the role of the World Health Organization (WHO) in contraceptive R&D, this paper suggests that an analysis of the role of intermediary organizations enables us to go beyond a too-narrow focus on the micro-sociological dynamics of laboratory work, to include the macro-and meso-sociological dimensions of science and technology. First, a focus on intermediary organizations enables us to learn more about the manner in which locally specific laboratory cultures are transformed into translocal research practices. This paper shows how literary technologies, and to an even greater extent material technologies, are important tools in accomplishing standardization of local laboratory cultures. Second, a focus on intermediary organizations enables us to study how concerns that go beyond the laboratory - in this case, population control policies and the agenda of the WHO - help to shape laboratory practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-72
Number of pages32
JournalSocial studies of science
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Keywords

  • IR-85301
  • METIS-148862

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