Dr. W. Halffman (Willem)

photo Willem Halffman

Assistant Professor


  • Willem Halffman
  • MB-STePS
  • PO Box 217
  • 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands

E-mail: w.halffman at gmail.com
Telephone: (053) 489 3221
Fax: (053) 489 2159
Website: http://halffman.net


Willem Halffman studied social and political sciences in Antwerp, sociology at the Free University of Brussels and at Columbia University, New York, with specialisation in sociology of science. In the nineties, he worked at the former Department of Science and Technology Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam, where he cooperated on various advisory projects on environmental hazards and the use of insights of science and technology studies in policy making. There he also wrote a dissertation about the development of ecotoxicological knowledge for the regulation of environmental hazards of chemical substances in the Netherlands, England and the US. The dissertation was defended cum laude at the University of Amsterdam in March 2003.  Afterwards, he worked as a postdoc at Twente and the University of Amsterdam. Since 2008, he is lecturer in policy sciences at the department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies (STEPS) at Twente University and one of the co-ordinators of the Phd training programme of the Dutch Graduate Research School of Science, Technology, and Modern Culture.


His main research interests involve the problems and tensions that arise when (scientific) experts advise policy makers. This includes: the organization of the science/policy boundary, patterns of exclusion of knowledge, or ramifications for the democratic quality of decision making. He has studied experts in their advisory activities to public policy in a variety of domains, including environmental hazards of chemicals, nature conservation, regional planning, and fisheries. He is interested in how boundaries around expertise are negotiated and institutionalised, including especially in relation to competing fields of expertise, lay and local knowledge, or experts and their clients among policy makers. Specific recent research topics include the involvement of NGOs in environmental research and 'amateur' science.


In the past, Willem has taught various courses related to science- and technology studies and the relations between experts and policy makers, including a general introduction into STS and a masters-level course on STS and social theory.


A sample of papers:

"Science/policy boundaries: a changing division of labour in Dutch expert policy advice." in: Scientific Expertise and Political Decision Making (Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook), eds. S. Maasse and P. Weingart. Dordrecht, Kluwer, forthcoming (2004). (with Rob Hoppe).

Boundaries of Regulatory Science: Eco/toxicology and the regulation of aquatic hazards of chemicals in the US, England, and the Netherlands, 1970-1995, dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 2003.

The Politics of Chemical Risk: Possible Regulatory Futures Proceedings of a Workshop held in Amsterdam, December 1998, Kluwer Academic Publishers, (with Roland Bal).

Ankerpunten van het Klimaatonderzoek: Het Nationaal Onderzoek Programma Mondiale Luchtverontreiniging en Klimaatverandering en Verankering van het klimaatonderzoek in Nederland [Anchoring Climate Research: the national Research Programme Global Air Polution and Climate Change and Anchoring of Climate Research in the Netherlands], RIVM, Bilthoven, 1999, rapport nr. 410 200 034. (in Dutch, with Chunglin Kwa, Leen Dresen, and Frank Wamelink).

De registratieplicht gevaarlijke stoffen geëvalueerd. [The obligation to register hazardous substances evaluated.] Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid, VUGA, Den Haag, September 1996, ISBN 90 5250 346 X. (in Dutch, with André van Raalte)

“Technology Versus Democracy? The Failure of Constructivist Recipes for the Dilemmas of Environmental Determinism.” Paper presented at the 4S/EASST conference `Signatures of Knowledge Societies, Bielefeld, Germany, October 1996.

“Het consensusmodel als valstrik” [The Trap of the Consensus Model], in: Zeno, nr. 4, 1995, p. 9 (in Dutch).


Willem is a member of the Dutch STS graduate school and coordinates the research programme “Rethinking Political Judgment and Science Based Expertise”.

Other activities

I take care of coordination Dutch STS graduate school (WTMC) together with Sally Wyatt.