Public faces of science: Experts and identity work in the boundary zone of science, policy and public debate

E. van Rijswoud, E. van Rijswoud

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research external, graduation external

    85 Downloads (Pure)


    We are all familiar with the image of the scientist who repeatedly makes his or her appearance in the media whenever a major dramatic event has taken place and there is a need for a scientific explanation. The scientist then acts as an expert who provides us with an interpretation of the event, and calls for a particular policy response. He or she acts as an authority who tells use us what to fear, and what not to fear. Although some scientists developed a certain a routine in fulfilling such a public role, often the questions they are faced with exceed their scientific knowledge, and the best they can do is to provide a fair and reasonable assessment. In addition, when scientists play their role as experts, this is welcomed by some, but fiercely contested by others. Credibility and authority in the public and political domains are never guaranteed, and part of the scientist’s work is aimed at presenting themselves as credible, as having the right expertise and experience required to stand as expert. This thesis aims to understand this complicated role of scientific experts in policymaking and public debate. In the Introduction, I outline the focus and framework for this research. My thesis addresses the following question: How has the role of scientific experts in policy and public debate evolved in a society in which this expertise is both indispensable and highly contested? This question is answered by using a biographical-narrative approach to study exemplary scientific experts, selected on the basis of their public visibility and the size of their track record as public expert (their biography).
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Radboud University Nijmegen
    • Zwart, H.A.E., Supervisor, External person
    Award date8 Mar 2012
    Place of PublicationNijmegen
    Print ISBNs9789081859608
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2012


    • IR-83335
    • METIS-293629


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