Background: This research addresses the modes of production and use of knowledge, in the global regulatory context of public health. In particular, it analyses the way in which scientific knowledge is mediated during the preparation of technical documents by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The technical reports compete in the cognitive space for regulatory influence in the representation of authorised scientific discourse.
Objectives: We analyse the use of scientific knowledge and the definition of evidence during the preparation of WHO technical documents on contraception, nutrition and sodium consumption, and their impact on regulations in Argentina.
Methods: We used bibliometric and socio-bibliometric analyses of scientific publications, public documents and technical materials related to health. Public documents of the laws and regulations studied in the National Congress were considered, and the minutes of meetings were analysed. We also conducted semi-directed interviews aimed at investigating the experience of scientists, experts and other actors regarding their participation in the decision-making process.
Results: The technical reports were identified as a way of producing specific knowledge where practical and operational contents are prioritised and scientific consensuses are forced, to give rise to texts that are positioned 'in the name of science'. The selected experts presented differing attributes with respect to other researchers or academic peers who do not usually participate in these committees, especially with respect to their publications profile, their position within the mainstream, their place of origin and their technical background.
Conclusions: The current status and impact of expert committees in global health represents a challenge for science studies. This research shed light on the process followed in defining and discussing research at these committees and the role of scientific knowledge in the regulatory context. We have been able to identify differences that are key to understanding the influence of science, scientists and stakeholders during the compiling of a technical report.