Programme

(T106)
Citizen science: Beyond the laboratory
Location 132
Date and Start Time 03 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Gabriel Mugar (Syracuse University) email
  • Andrea Wiggins (University of Maryland) email
  • Carsten Oesterlund (Syracuse University) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Alan Irwin (Copenhagen Business School)

Short Abstract

Citizen science constitutes a rich and evolving arena in the production of scientific knowledge, raising questions that speak to the core of STS scholarship. This track will expand the dialogue around this growing practice of knowledge creation through traditional and cutting edge STS perspectives.

Long Abstract

Citizen science constitutes a rich and evolving arena in the production of scientific knowledge, raising questions that speak to the core of STS scholarship. In its various forms, ranging from expert-driven crowdsourced models to citizen-driven social and ecological justice initiatives, citizen science offers a rich empirical setting. This track will expand the dialogue around this growing practice of knowledge creation through traditional and cutting-edge STS perspectives. Building on STS scholarship exploring the sociomaterial construction of scientific knowledge in laboratory settings, field work and trace ethnography, we invite researchers that unpack citizen science infrastructures and how such assemblages evolve or stabilize, across various settings.

Relevant themes include the entanglement and evolution of technologies and communities in citizen science, the influences of policy, technology, and professional scientific communities on emergent practices of knowledge co-production, the production of novices and experts, and how roles in citizen science are defined and negotiated, tracing information flows between contributors and project leaders, how stakeholders attempt to shape volunteer contribution to fit a particular need, how data quality is constructed and reconstructed, and how both formal and informal data quality standards are embodied in practices, technologies, and social structures. Beyond questions of building and deploying infrastructure, we also invite research about how stakeholders resist or repurpose such infrastructure to meet their needs, the role of traditional and local knowledge in citizen science, and the impacts of scientific disciplines and scientific methods on the perceptions of citizen science practices and products.

SESSIONS: 5/4/4

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Landscapes and Property Lines: the contradictory practices of citizen scientists.

Author: Karin Patzke (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

As landowners participate in citizen science conservation policies, property rights are reinforced, ignoring larger ecosystems and landscapes. Through discursive and genre analysis, I examine these efforts and shed new light on the contradictory practices resulting from citizen science initiatives.

Long Abstract

As citizens become collaborators with scientists in biodiversity conservation projects, the material practices of conservation adjust to address the everyday practices of environmental conservation. Often identified as cultural scripts, these negotiations in practice account for the cultural values at play in local communities (Heasley 2005, Jørgensen 2013 and Armitage 2013). However, these novel practices of citizen scientists often reflect contradictory values and perspectives that, when examined, highlight tensions in policy initiatives that promote citizen science participation but limit the effectiveness of the policy. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Central Texas in the US with state agents and landowners over several years, I examine how participation in citizen science programs privileges property rights but fails to account for the landscape beyond the individual's property, resulting in piecemeal efforts across a wider landscape of development. Specifically I examine how citizen science programs that highlight species census monitoring act as legitimating practices for conservation on private lands within the state's wildlife management policy initiative. I argue that as individual landowners in Texas participate in large-scale citizen science efforts, they reinforce political boundaries while ignoring larger ecosystems and landscapes. Through discursive and genre analysis, this project closely examines biodiversity conservation efforts and sheds new light on the contradictory practices that result from citizen science based policy initiatives.

Who are the citizens in citizen science? Public participation in distributed computing

Authors: Elise Tancoigne (University of Geneva)  email
Bruno J. Strasser (University of Geneva; Yale University)  email
Jerome Baudry (University of Geneva)  email

Short Abstract

Over 4 million participants contribute to citizen science projects through distributed computing. By mining online profiles and user data we offer a rich picture of the demographics of participation and discuss its implications for the democratization of science.

Long Abstract

At the core of citizen science projects lies the belief that the making of science should not be seen as the sole purview of experts, but instead should extend to a broader public. Whether they are called "amateurs", "crowd", "people", or "citizens", they are increasingly enrolled by scientists not just to discuss and learn science, but also to actively engage in the production of scientific knowledge. However, surprisingly little is known about who the citizens scientists are, especially with regard to their education and professional backgrounds. The limited surveys which have been carried out tend to represent the most active participants only, leaving open the question about the identity of the participants as a whole.

Our presentation will provide a closer look at one kind of citizen science project: distributed computing (Seti@home, Rosetta@home, Einstein@home, etc.) focusing on the identity of the online participants. By mining online profiles and user data, our work provides a rich picture of the demographics of participation. We also examine how participation is shaped by the very infrastructure of the projects - public discussion spaces, teams organizations, and reward systems.

Traditional Knowledge, Citizenship, and the Conditions of Scientific Participation

Author: Sarah Blacker (Technical University of Munich)  email

Short Abstract

This paper shows how the processes of democratization of science that are currently underway through the proliferation of citizen science projects are hindered by a too-narrow conception of the qualifications required by members of the public in order to participate in science.

Long Abstract

As public participation in science increases, new media through which citizen scientists observe, record, and interpret phenomena are adapted. At the same time, the practices governing what counts as scientific evidence are shifting. This paper shows how the processes of democratization of science that are currently underway through the proliferation of citizen science projects are hindered by a too-narrow conception of the qualifications required by members of the public in order to participate in science. Through a discussion of a collaborative research project between scientists and First Nations communities in Canada designed to render Traditional Knowledge concerning harm caused by industrial pollution into forms of evidence that will be recognized by government metrics, I consider the processes of translation and encoding that quantify Traditional Knowledge for visibility within dominant Western scientific practices. First, I ask how new technologies that facilitate public participation in science beyond the reaches of the laboratory empower the public to identify matters of concern and to participate in both study design and the interpretation of data collected. Second, I discuss contestations of the category of citizenship as a required mechanism for scientific participation. Not all potential participants in citizen science projects have access to the rights and protections offered by citizenship, nor do all members of the public see their interests reflected in the scientific knowledge produced. As the capacity to participate in science increasingly acts as a determinant of access to political representation, questions concerning barriers to scientific participation are becoming ever more urgent.

Architecture and social sciences' spatial turn: dialogue or monologue?

Authors: Griselda Macareno de los Santos (Universidad de las Americas Puebla)  email
Leandro Rodriguez-Medina (Universidad de las Americas Puebla)  email

Short Abstract

This paper aims to show and illustrate how architects in Mexico who have been in charge of relevant projects in the public space interact with social sciences' spatial turn.

Long Abstract

For a long time, a discourse of interdisciplinarity has been embraced not only by academics and universities, but also by governments and funding agencies. Thus, scholars have recently begun to prioritize efficacy of their methodological and theoretical approaches over their disciplinary imperatives. However, the transition from mode 1 to mode 2 of knowledge production is not smooth and this paper aims to find out whether architects in charge of major works in the public domain (museums, government offices, schools, etc.) have relied on knowledge produced by the social sciences in order to intervene in the public space. Through in-depth interviews with architects of some of the most important firms in Mexico, we explore to what extent architects know about recent developments in the social sciences - known as the spatial turn - that might provide them significant insights for their work. In those cases where social sciences have been influential, we describe the absorptive capacity of the architectural firms, that is, the entanglement of people, objects, ideas and relationships that makes it possible to absorb knowledge from different settings, disciplines, and contexts. We conclude that the possibility of an interdisciplinary dialogue rests, among other factors, on the development of absorptive capacities by those actors (often institutions) for which knowledge is a key resource. Science is about producing more and better knowledge, but also about being able to reach the right place at the right moment.

Toward an inherently collaborative rhetoric of science communication

Author: Erika Szymanski (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

How do collaborations with knowledgeable non-scientists avoid domesticating non-scientists for scientific use? I explore models for collaborative science communication avoiding science dominance by beginning with alternate epistemologies and their challenge to the shape of scientific discourse.

Long Abstract

Participatory or "citizen" science projects often use non-professionals as a kind of distributed scientific instrument, whereby scientists control data collection by a tool composed of animate thinking bodies. Scientists remain the "experts." Such models for participation ignore the collective expertise of communities who can and should be involved in scientific production, groups who lie not between the general lay person and the professional scientist but on a different and overlapping axis, whose knowledge is not incomplete with respect to scientific experts but which constitutes a complementary form of expertise. But if we acknowledge the collective expertise of a group outside but overlapping with science, what language do collaborations use to avoid merely enrolling non-scientists in scientific projects, entraining or domesticating them for scientific use? I will in this presentation explore models for collaborative science communication that avoid devolving into top-down science dominance by beginning with alternate epistemologies, argue for the necessity of such models to the success of applied scientific research, and consider challenges such models pose for the larger shape of scientific discourse.

Trading Zones, Citizen Science and New Infrastructures for Knowledge Production

Author: Per Hetland (Oslo University)  email

Short Abstract

This study focuses on citizen science, systematic biology, biodiversity mapping and how the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo and its stakeholders interact with communities of interest outside of professional institutions and engage laypeople in citizen science.

Long Abstract

Using the metaphor of a 'trading zone', Galison (1997) explains how communication is managed where there is a high degree of incommensurability. Collins, Evans and Gorman (2010) studied trading zones and interactional expertise along the twin dimensions of homogeneity-heterogeneity and collaboration-coercion. In this study, the trading zone metaphor will be used to explore how citizen science has evolved to make it possible for participants to develop both interactional expertise and contributory expertise (Collins & Evans, 2015; Collins, Evans, & Weinel, 2015; Hetland, 2011).

The citizen science case includes five smaller studies of: 1) crowdsourcing activities, where the museum has established a portal for volunteers to contribute to citizen science transcriptions and focus on motivation and possible learning outcomes, 2) validation processes in Species Observation and the different arrangements for developing participants' expertise, 3) how social networking has changed over time and how these changes have led to the development of lay communities, 4) user perspectives, especially youth engagement and 5) what happens to the old relationships between laypeople and institutions when new technology and practices are introduced. In these studies, we will explore contributory, engagement, collaboration, co-created and collegial models (Shirk et al., 2012) and how they facilitate various amounts of engagement. We use a range of qualitative methods such as virtual ethnography, semi-structured interviews and also small surveys.

Scientists, Citizen Scientists, and the People in the Middle

Author: Hined Rafeh (Drexel University)  email

Short Abstract

An STS Analysis of The Middle-Person in Citizen Science Interactions

Long Abstract

This paper is based on ethnographic and observational data gathered from participating as a middle-woman between scientists and citizen scientists. In 2015, SciStarter partnered up with NASA's GLOBE Program to recruit citizen scientists to collect soil moisture samples in order to ground truth satellite data. The program has stressed the need for volunteer scientists to aid in producing viable results and SciStarter has been extremely involved in the production of novices and experts, stressing the needs of the citizen scientists. This project is a perfect case study to trace information flow between contributors and project owners, as well as the entanglement of technologies and communities in citizen science. The middleman between the scientists and citizen scientists echoes the role of middleman that STS serves between science and society, and much of the same analysis can be implanted in citizen science. This paper will utilize in particular the following STS theories: social construction of technology, actor-network theory, and the co-production of scientific knowledge.

Enrolling scientists, citizens and lichens for knowing the chronic effects of pollution in the Fos-sur-mer industrial area (France)

Authors: Christelle Gramaglia (Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies pour l'environnement et l'agriculture)  email
Philippe Chamaret (Institut Ecocitoyen pour la Connaissance des Pollutions)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the work completed by a citizen organization so “undone science” about pollution in the Fos-sur-Mer industrial area (France) gets done. We discuss the epistemological and political qualities of biomonitoring data and their ability to challenge administrative monitoring practices.

Long Abstract

The Fos-sur-mer industrial area, one of the largest of its kind in Europe, was set up in the 1960s. Steel and petrochemical plants, some classified as dangerous, were built. The impact on the local communities was dramatic. Rapidly, pollution generated protest. So, in 1971, the administration created a collegial organization to restore dialogue. Technical solutions to reduce emissions were examined. Concerns fluctuated until a waste incinerator was constructed in the 2000's. The issue was raised again. Demonstrations took place to oppose the facility. Residents pointed at the lack of knowledge about the industry impact on environment and health. Under pressure, some representatives requested a territorial check-up. They also supported citizen-based organization (IECP or Eco-citizen institute for knowing pollution) whose aim is it to develop research on the chronic effects of pollution below the threshold of regulatory norms, but also to lobby the administration so it may change its monitoring.

The objective of this paper is to examine the work completed by the IECP so "undone science" (Frickel at al. 2010) about pollution and its impacts on living organisms gets done (and is made locally relevant). Special attention is paid to biomonitoring experiments with volunteers and lichens to document pollution accumulation. Elaborating on archive research and interviews with stakeholders, we see how relations between scientists, decision makers, industrialists and citizens have evolved in the area. We will also discuss the epistemological and political qualities of data that are being produced as well as their ability to challenge current administrative practices.

Co-Creating Research Agendas through Multi-Actor Engagement

Author: Niklas Gudowsky (Austrian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

The paper presents findings from the EU-project CIMULACT which engaged more than 1000 citizens in 30 European countries, along with a large variety of experts, stakeholders and policy makers in a highly participatory foresight process to integrate different types of knowledge into shaping research agendas.

Long Abstract

Results of futures studies are often controversial, divergent or even contradictory; thus, they become contested. In addition, expert anticipation beyond short-term prediction is highly arbitrary since technological innovation is rapid at present in complex socio-technical systems, sometimes resulting in unforeseeable results and conflicts. Against this background, it may be alleviating to change the perspective by asking how the future should look like, instead of merely providing descriptive but often deterministic or linear models of the socio-technical change. Such a normative approach may then serve as a stimulant for contemporary discourse on governing innovations actively.

The presented project CIMULACT - Citizen and Multi-Actor Consultation on Horizon 2020 - aims at shaping EU as well as national science, technology and innovation policies through agenda setting based on societal needs and directed at the grand challenges. Citizens create visions on desirable futures in 2050. Then, after eliciting overarching social needs inherent to the visions, research program scenarios are co-created in an inter- and transdisciplinary setting, which are then tested, enriched and validated in a second consultation phase using participatory on- and offline methods in 30 European countries. Afterwards stakeholders, researchers and policymakers will transform validated results into policy options and possible research topics for Horizon 2020. Conclusions will provide insights into evaluations of this highly deliberative dialogue between science and society as well as its results, both on the methodological level as well as content wise.

A typology of citizen science technologies

Authors: Anne Bowser (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)  email
Andrea Wiggins (University of Maryland)  email

Short Abstract

We created a taxonomy of citizen science technologies arranged according to intended use. We used this taxonomy to analyze how technologies are combined to create infrastructures, and considered the role and prevalence of technological appropriation in the citizen science context.

Long Abstract

As citizen science grows, so too do studies of its technologies and practices, with recent research focusing on the enabling role of technologies in shaping conversations around topics including public engagement, the nature of expertise, science identities, and science practices. Yet there is no comprehensive catalog of the different technologies that are used in citizen science. In addition, there is no common understanding of how components of these sociotechnical systems interrelate, for example when projects integrate mutually dependent technologies into systems assemblages that crystallize into local infrastructures, sometimes evolving into community infrastructures connected to larger science infrastructures.

Defining technology as a physical or digital tool that facilitates a task, this paper presents a catalog of common citizen science technologies. To begin, researchers retrieved a random sample of citizen science projects from two databases, reviewing materials on each project published through websites and scholarly venues. By approaching these materials through the lens of collective action process models, we created a list of individual technologies, and then a functional taxonomy of technologies arranged according to intended use. We used this taxonomy to analyze how technologies are combined to create infrastructures, and considered the role and prevalence of technological appropriation in the citizen science context.

This empirically-grounded taxonomy offers an initial focus for STS research on citizen science technologies, system assemblages, infrastructures; the interrelationships between these sociotechnical systems at multiple levels; the role of appropriation in enabling grassroots collective action; and the values and power structures evident in these technologies.

Microfluidic systems: challenges and opportunities for citizen science

Author: Mary Amasia (Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Microfluidic systems for environmental monitoring automate complex analyses to yield results at the site of collection. However these systems have yet to see impact in citizen science initiatives. How can expert and lay methods be leveraged to address challenges of scale, expertise, and complexity?

Long Abstract

The miniaturization of diagnostic systems for health or environmental monitoring has brought about a number of improvements including increased portability, lower fabrication cost, and shorter delays between sample collection and test result. For example, microfluidic systems integrate complex processes into an automated sample-to-answer system, that can be used at the point of collection even in places far from large scale testing facilities. While there is potential for these systems to have impact in citizen science initiatives, the emphasis has largely been on developing products for the biotech industry. Citizen science initiatives have taken a more populist approach to create accessible systems through DIY testing or crowd-sourced monitoring. However, these approaches tend to focus on vectors that are easy to test or have to be paired with existing testing infrastructures. For example, in the recent case in Flint, MI citizens' drinking water samples were transported to a research lab in another state for analysis with expensive instrumentation. My work is currently exploring the appropriate design space to address the challenges of monitoring infrastructures, in terms of issues of scale, expertise, and automation. There are many challenges in bringing expert and DIY methods together. Working at the intersection of microfluidic systems engineering and critical technical practice, I consider questions such as: What is testable? What counts as direct evidence? What makes a particular sensing method accountable or auditable within the existing legal and political context? How can expert and lay methods best be leveraged together?

Privacy and Responsible Research in Citizen Science projects

Author: Gemma Galdon Clavell (Eticas research and Consulting)  email

Short Abstract

We analyze three different projects of citizen science based in Barcelona (Spain) from the point of view of privacy and data protection, and present some general concerns, risks and solutions that should be considered by any European citizen science project.

Long Abstract

Responsible Research and Innovation approach shows not only a strong compromise on ethics and transparency but also on privacy and data protection. These aspects are fully relevant when dealing with citizen science projects. If citizen science practices want to be fully aligned with RRI philosophy, they should therefore carefully consider privacy and data protection when they approach and communicate with volunteers. Unfortunately, there not many studies considering these aspects in relation with the engagement strategies. Moreover, the studies are mostly focused on US standards and analyze US based projects, which may differ in many ways from European approaches. We have analyzed three different projects of citizen science based in Barcelona (Spain) and we thus present some general concerns and risks in an abstract manner that should be considered by any European citizen science project. Additionally, we propose some principles on privacy and data protection adapted to citizen science research context. For instance, we adapt Privacy by Design principles to citizen science practices.

Awareness and attitudinal change in participatory air pollution monitoring

Authors: Christian Oltra (CIEMAT- Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas)  email
Ainhoa Jorcano  email
Irene Eleta (CREAL-ISGlobal)  email
Roser Sala (CIEMAT-CISOT)  email

Short Abstract

This study focuses on the attitudes and reactions of lay people before and after an engagement activity for monitoring their personal exposure to air pollution with sensors. The qualitative analysis of focus groups unveils risk beliefs, challenges and opportunities for a citizen science approach.

Long Abstract

Citizen science and participatory environmental sensing are emerging as promising approaches for urban air quality management, given their potential to improve the engagement of the public with environmental issues and encourage healthier behaviors. However, some projects start developing and deploying air quality sensors for their use by non-experts without having a strategy about what understanding and behaviors they seek to facilitate. This study explores the experiences, perceptions and attitudes of 18 participants that used a real-time NO2 sensor during a period of seven days in the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The sample of participants monitoring their personal exposure to NO2 included 6 people already concerned with the problem of air pollution and 12 people that were not. The qualitative research design was based on three focus groups, which met at the beginning and at the end of the seven-day activity. The preliminary analysis focuses on the changes in risk beliefs and behavioral intentions associated to air pollution. The results can inform the design of strategies and devices for participatory environmental sensing and citizen science projects in public health. Also, it contributes to our understanding of technology design as an instrument of perception -turning visible the invisible-, persuasion and behavioral change.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.