Tag Archives: science

Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)

In November, I attended and presented a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Cleveland, OH.  The paper was titled “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Expertise and Democracy in Eco-Label Accountability,” and looked at the role of several new initiative that have emerged to evaluate the effectiveness of eco-labels and sustainability ratings.  Rating the raters, or “guarding the guardians,” hence the reference to the famous phrase in Latin.  These different initiatives all attempt to employ different processes of science and technologies of participation to establish their legitimacy as such guardians, and I analyzed the approaches of two particular cases, the FTC and EnviroMedia.

The obvious question that arises is, who watches the watchers of the watchers?  There are two possible ways to end the infinite loop — one is competition and peer review (they watch each other) and the other is public transparency and accountability (we, the public, watch them).  Whether or these mechanisms are effective is a question for another day…