The social sciences at ANSES

The Agency is regularly required to work on highly controversial subjects involving different types of uncertainty (scientific, social, political, etc.). To more effectively frame the context of certain work, and document aspects that may be useful in the risk assessment process, ANSES integrates the human and social sciences into its expert appraisal activities and calls for research projects.

Overview and purpose

The openness to society of expertise at ANSES also applies to the disciplines that are of use when conducting certain expert appraisals. For several years now, the Agency has been drawing on the human and social sciences (HSS) for various issues. This takes the form of:

The HSS are also mobilised through:

These human and social sciences approaches seek a better understanding of the behaviour and positioning of the stakeholders, the arguments involved, their history and evolution, the conditions of their deployment and their impact in situations of crisis and controversy. They also help shed light on the critical points of an expert appraisal (e.g. the effects of disciplinary framing on the results of the work, characterisation and evaluation of uncertainties in the assessment process, procedures for validating knowledge and the weight of evidence, strengths and limitations of quantitative approaches, etc.), and on its limits of validity and admissibility. They yield analytical information on “societal” concerns surrounding the health issues, both before and after the expert appraisal.

When dealing with particularly complex and controversial topics, such as radiofrequency emissions, nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, animal welfare, etc., the expert groups that are set up incorporate expertise in the HSS. Sociology, political science, psychology, law, economics, history, philosophy, communication sciences, etc. can therefore be mobilised depending on the topic, to supplement the body of knowledge useful for ANSES's work and discussions.

Read pages 27 to 29 of ANSES's 2016 Annual Report (PDF)

The social sciences are also represented within ANSES's Committee for Ethical Standards and the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest.
Lastly, the various events (symposia, seminars, study days) coordinated or attended by the Agency provide an opportunity to incorporate contributions from the HSS in discussions on the positioning of the Agency's work and its issues.

Visit the pages devoted to HSS events (in French)

Find out more

  • a summarised presentation of the process begun at ANSES to further the openness to society of expertise was published in Issue 64 of the Hermès Review and in the book coordinated by Adélie Pomade "L’expertise du haut conseil des biotechnologies : un facilitateur du dialogue sciences/société" ["The expertise of the High Council for Biotechnologies: a facilitator of dialogue between science and society"], collection of the Paris UMR for Comparative Law, Volume 34, 2014:
    • openness to society of expertise and mobilisation of the social sciences ANSES ;
    • openness to society and the mobilisation of social sciences in the expert appraisal processes at ANSES.
  • editorial of a special issue of the European Journal of Risk Regulation (Volume 5/Issue 1, 2014) devoted to how social sciences are used in expertise agencies.