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How Professionals Construct Moral Authority: Expanding Boundaries of Expert Authority in Stem Cell Science

Evans, J. ORCID: 0000-0003-4388-0637 (2021). How Professionals Construct Moral Authority: Expanding Boundaries of Expert Authority in Stem Cell Science. Administrative Science Quarterly, 66(4), pp. 989-1036. doi: 10.1177/00018392211011441


Negotiations over professional boundaries are often contests about controlling technical expertise and authority. Less is known about the role of moral judgments in such contests because well-trained professionals often silence their moral commitments or engage moral debates outside the boundaries of their profession. Drawing on an ethnographic study of a science laboratory at the forefront of moral controversy, this article shows how professionals manage moral challenges by reconfiguring their conventional domain of expert authority to include moral as well as technical expertise. Scientists drew on their plural moral views to develop, apply, and mobilize abstract knowledge about morals as resources to claim authority in debates over the moral definition of their work. Collective learning and collaboration ensured the cohesion of the professional community throughout the process of developing authority despite continued moral pluralism. By unpacking one mechanism for the pursuit of moral authority, the study elaborates our understanding of the moral foundations of professionalism and of the emergence of morally complex work activities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: professions, moral authority, expert control, science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Q Science
R Medicine
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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