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The international politics and operational control of potentially dangerous technology: A case study of reconminant DNA

Russell, Alan Myles (1984) The international politics and operational control of potentially dangerous technology: A case study of reconminant DNA. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94627) (KAR id:94627)


The focus of this thesis is on the international features of the case of recombinant DNA. A transnational model of decision-making is applied to the development and implementation of safeguards which followed the authoritative public announcement by eleven leading microbiologists that certain new experimental techniques involved conjectured hazards. The case is taken, in an historical context, as an example of a new technology displaying 'low probability, high consequence' risks emphasising the international uncertainty involved. A multi-levelled systems approach is adopted to link organisational decision-making analysis to concepts of transnational political relationships (developed from K. Deutsch, R. Keohane and J. Nye, J. Burton, H. Simon, R. Cyert and J. March, W. Evans, and G.T. Allison). The study stresses the importance of operational safeguards developed in the United States and the United Kingdom, illustrating their roles as models, often borrowed and modified elsewhere. In all, some thirty-two states and eleven international organisations are covered, emphasising communications linkages and sources of information. Uncertainty concerning potential hazards led to a transnational incremental approach to the process of decision-making as it affected the development and operationalisation of control options designed to reduce risk. Satisfactory rather than optimal strategies resulted. It was apparent that the limitations faced in 'rational' assessments assisted the growth of political debate in an overall climate of empirical uncertainty. Scientists proved to be well organised internationally, and on the whole retained a dominant input into the transnational decision-making, despite the general level of political controversy. The case stands as an object lesson in the problems associated with internationally assessing uncertain hazards (and benefits) despite the presently accepted perception that risks are somewhat less than originally conceived.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Groom, A.J.R.
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94627
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: technology, recombinant DNA
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2023 12:52 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2023 12:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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