The relevance of scientific advice and public participation is increasing, particularly in the field of political decisions relating to bio-scientific research perspectives and new biomedical applications. The complexity and controversiality of biotechnology leads to the establishment of new forms of political advice:
Ethics committees and participatory procedures replace traditional forms of representation of interests. Up to now, the communicative production process of bioethical expertise and its (latent) functions for political decision-making are not sufficiently scrutinised by sociology. My research question addresses this in multiple ways:
In this research project, institutionalised policy advice is studied in the field of bioethics in five European countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain and France), within the scope of twelve case studies.
In theoretical terms, it aims at promoting a social-theoretically informed and empirically substantiated sociology of ethics and moral, which catches up with present developments of socio-scientific expertise research. Thematically, the analysis relates to currently controversial domains like genetic testing, stem cell research and cloning. Methodically, the project is based on extensive expert interviews, participant observation, as well as content analysis of relevant materials and documents. Thereby, cases of bioethical policy advice by governmentally initiated and promoted committees in different forms of institutionalisation (national ethics councils, study commissions) are included as are new forms of public participation (consensus- and citizen-conferences, respectively). This takes place in terms of an international comparison.
Out of this European country comparison, significant findings are to be expected on the question of the legitimisation of political decisions and the functionality of public participation and expertise in the context of the controversies induced by bio-scientific progress.
12/2006 - 11/2009