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The Illusion of Accountability: Trust and Surveillance in the Cultures of Science
Is law perceived and used differently in the research world of elite scientists than it is in the daily lives of ordinary citizens? In many ways, scientific spaces are no different than most others, equally saturated with health and safety regulations, employment and financial regulations, susceptible to claims of loss and liability. Yet for scientists, who are authorized and insulated by layers of education and expertise, the law that infuses their work has been until recently largely unnoticed, irrelevant, and inconsequential. However, newly passed laws and regulations disrupt scientists’ usual practices by requiring them to change laboratory routines, complete new training and yearly retraining, and submit to periodic inspection of laboratory practices. By substituting systems of audit for collegial interactions, the law threatens the routines of scientific practice, remaking them into conduits of surveillance. The Illusion of Accountability describes how one university attempted to create safe green laboratories in an effort to provide a model of both freedom and safety.
Professor Susan S. Silbey is Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences, Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Silbey is interested in the governance, regulatory and audit processes in complex organizations. Her current research focuses on the creation of management systems for containing risks, including ethical lapses, as well as environment, health and safety hazards.
Previous books include The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life (with Patricia Ewick) (1998), In Litigation: Do the 'Haves' Still Come Out Ahead (with Herbert Kritzer) (2003), Law and Science (I): Epistemological, Evidentiary, and Relational Engagements, and Law and Science (II): Regulation of Property, Practices, and Products (2008).
Silbey is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2009), Doctor Honoris Causa from Ecole Normale Superiere Cachan in Paris (2006) and the Harry Kalven Jr. Prize for advancing the sociology of law (2009). She is Past President of the Law & Society Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.