Citizen science – A new knowledge politics?

Citizen science – A new knowledge politics?

Author: Alan Irwin – Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

The growth of world-wide activity in citizen science represents one of the most important recent developments within the broad field of science communication and citizen-science relations. The 2015 inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association, held in California, brought together over 600 people. There is a European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) supported by organizations from over 10 countries, and, since 2014, an Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA). As the European association expresses its future vision: ‘in 2020, citizens in Europe are valued and empowered as key actors in advancing knowledge and innovation and thus supporting sustainable development in our world.’ Meanwhile, the Zooniverse website lists a wide range of projects: all dedicated to the concept and practice of ‘people-powered research’. And, based upon a recent inventory prepared by Monica Peters for the NZ Landcare trust, it seems that citizen science projects are flourishing across New Zealand.

This is a remarkable movement within the landscape of public communication with science and technology. Certainly, it is worth reflecting upon its implications for science communication as a field of research and practice. More specifically, the question I wish to explore in this presentation concerns the relationship between citizen science and more ‘mainstream’ scientific practice. Put simply, does citizen science represent simply an extension of science by other means or does it raise new questions concerning the nature of ’knowledge politics’? While critical social scientists and other commentators might view citizen science as primarily a means of extended knowledge-gathering, it is also important to consider the larger possibilities for citizen science: as a way of developing new knowledge practices, shifting the institutional boundaries around science, and raising new questions and new perspectives.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication