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Title: Constructivism in practice? : exploring the implementation gap within the UK pesticide risk assessment framework
Author: Hughes, Gareth John Arfon
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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Traditional forms of risk assessment for pesticide spraying adhere strongly to the ‘positivist’ paradigm, with a reliance on expert knowledge and ‘objective’ scientific experiment methods. This thesis primarily explores how well ideas about increasing the levels of knowledge pluralism, accountability and social context in researching risks, ideas falling within the competing ‘constructivist’ paradigm, are transmitting into practice of risk assessment for agricultural pesticide spraying in the UK. This research explores a variety of discourses on pesticide risk and its assessment, why these differences develop, and how respective groups holding these views mobilise their discourses within the current framework. The research also presents suggestions to potentially integrate these competing epistemological positions. Representatives of relevant ‘acknowledged experts’ (comprised of both governmental and independent expert bodies) and ‘counter-expert’ groups (comprised of pesticide pressure groups and activists) were interviewed, and this was complemented by analysis of published material from the groups in question. Opinions of sampled non-expert, or lay’, communities in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire were obtained through a combination of postal surveying and interviewing conducted on doorsteps. The resulting data set revealed a number of specific discourse themes, which were analysed and cross-referenced. The study identifies a notable implementation gap between constructivist ideas and practice; the assessment process is firmly positivistic in approach. Governmental experts, taking a critical position on the health risks associated with pesticide exposure, gravitate towards a linear and technical risk assessment. This approach, stemming from embedded ‘worldviews’, maintains disciplinary integrity, external political relations and economic efficiency. Despite pressure from competing counter-expert groups to account for considerable uncertainties, trust-related problems and long term costs through greater diversity of risk knowledge, current quantitative analysis leaves little scope for its viable inclusion. Limited participatory and communication mechanisms do not enhance civil liberties, but are instead used instrumentally by experts further legitimise technical risk science.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available