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An Enquiry into Biosafety Regulations Implementation in Kenya: Perspectives and Roles of Scientists

November 3 2009

Venue: Ground Floor Chambers Building Room 00-13, The Open University, Milton Keynes

Organised by: Innogen and Development Policy and Practice at The Open University, Milton Keynes

This talk is based on a PhD thesis that explores the perspectives and related behavioural shifts of the heterogeneous Kenyan scientific community in the development and subsequent implementation of biosafety regulations. Kenya’s biotechnology innovation system has been driven largely by the contradictory framing of biotechnology as a scientific tool for innovation and international competitiveness on the one hand, and as a technology that has adverse effects on the environment on the other. A transition towards an integrated regulatory system over the last one and half decade had entailed unprecedented institutional configurations and changes in behavioural patterns of the scientific community.

To analyse the role of the scientific community in shaping the regulatory process and instruments in the evolving biotechnology innovation system, the thesis draws on interviews, documentary analysis and observation data collected from a wide range of actors including scientists. It finds that, as scientists adapt to institutional changes necessitated by the biotechnology innovation transition, they have been reconstituting themselves consciously and unconsciously around different linear and non linear modes of knowledge production. In the process, learning has occurred, knowledge has been produced and diffused impacting on both technological innovation and emergence of a regulatory regime.

The latter is however bounded up in the former. The thesis further finds that the capacity to influence the regulatory process and instruments was spurred not only by the individualised scientific expertise, but also by the relationships and coalitions built around the different regulatory phases. Knowledge produced in this regulatory context challenges the application of knowledge theories in the light of its potential to influence scientific practice and regulatory policy instruments. From lessons and insights drawn from theories of knowledge, the emerging policies and practices are skewed towards a narrow, linear form of technical and scientific expertise, thus ignoring many underpinning factors that are important for emergence of socially desirable processes and policies. The study recommends reconceptualisation of both scientific practice and policy making in reflexive and systemic ways that encourage incremental learning.,23240,en.t4.html