Accepted Paper:

Traditional Knowledge, Citizenship, and the Conditions of Scientific Participation  

Author:

Sarah Blacker (Technical University of Munich)

Paper 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.

Paper 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.

Panel T106
Citizen science: Beyond the laboratory