The hybrid legal-scientific dynamic of transnational scientific institutions

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The objective of the present article is to develop a better understanding of the institutional dynamic of transnational regulatory scientific institutions (RSIs). RSIs play a significant role in the transnational regulatory process by mediating between the scientific community and policy-making bodies. I argue that RSIs have a hybrid structure involving both political-legal and epistemic authority. The hybrid structure of RSIs - their capacity to exert both normative and epistemic authority - constitutes an innovative response to the demand of modern society for scientific certainty and to the scarcity of normative power in the international domain. This hybrid nature has a triple structure involving three complementary pairs: law~science, law~non-law and science~pseudoscience. I examine the way in which RSIs cope with the challenge of maintaining their epistemic and legal authority against the tensions generated by their hybrid structure. The discussion of hybrid authority is related to the problem of scientific uncertainty. I examine this theoretical argument drawing on an in-depth analysis of three RSIs that reflect the institutional diversity of the RSI network: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection and the European Committee of Homeopaths. I conclude with a discussion of some of the policy issues associated with the institutional design of RSIs. The policy discussion refers, first, to the risk posed by RSIs' hybrid structure to their internal stability and, second, to some potential adverse social impacts that need to be considered alongside RSIs' projected benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-416
Number of pages26
JournalEuropean Journal of International Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

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Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2015.


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