Abstract The close relationship between scientific expertise and regulatory policy in certain controversial and public areas has prompted commentators to suggest the concept of ‘regulatory science’. However, definition is generally constrained either to the concerns of regulatory science or to its context. This paper proposes an approach to regulatory science which is both empirically-based and allows a more theoretical treatment of the new conditions of scientific and regulatory activity. A particular case-study of the British agrochemicals sector is presented in terms of a five-way analytical framework for regulatory science. The paper concludes by considering the wider relevance of regulatory science for future sociological and policy research.