The National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) theatre: purification and legitimacy in Brazilian regulatory science

Paulo Fonseca (CECULT/UFRB)

May 28, 2018, 14h30

Room 1, CES | Alta


Regulatory science is a denomination given to science that directly informs the regulation of scientific and technological innovations (Jasanoff, 1995, 1990). This seminar will present a research aimed at understanding Brazilian regulatory science, through the study of the activities of the National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio), a technical body that centralizes the deliberations on regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country. As an extension of the work initiated by Stephen Hilgartner (2000), CTNBio's work is analysed from the dramaturgical perspective of Erving Goffman’s (2001) sociology. CTNBio can be understood as a theatre where the different experts perform, act on stage, have an audience, backstage and conflicts regariding the roles represented.

In this light, it is possible to understand the process of consolidation and stabilisation of the commission as the sovereign decision-making body on transgenic biotechnologies in Brazil. This process involves the control of the visibility of conflicts already existing outside and within its scope, between a favourable coalition and another that is contrary to the market release of genetically modified organisms. The legitimacy of CTNBio's deliberations is based on the premise that it develops strictly technical assessments and is free of political interference or personal interests and its political stability is related to the success of its purification performances, that is, the maintenance of technical and political divergences in the behind the scenes of deliberation.

Bio note

Paulo Fonseca - Assistant Professor at UFRB - Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia, at CECULT - Centre for Culture, Languages ​​and Applied Technologies. He holds a bachelor's degree in Physics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (2004/2005), a master's degree in Social Studies of Science and Technology from the University of Salamanca (2009) and a doctorate in "Governance, Knowledge and Innovation", profile "Social Impacts of Science and Technology (Sociology)", by the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra (2014). He was a CES Junior Research Fellow (2013-2014), Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the "Science, Technology and Society (STS)" programme at Harvard University (2014-2015) and postdoctoral research fellow associated with IRIS- Research Institute for Risk and Sustainability, Department of Sociology and Political Science of the Federal University of Santa Catarina (2015-2017). Has experience in the area of ​​Science, Technology and Society Studies, working mainly in the analysis of policies and practices of nanotechnology, biotechnology and nuclear energy.


Organisers: Ana Raquel Matos and António Carvalho