Radiation monitoring after Fukushima: rearticulating "citizen science" as active citizenship
Michiel Van Oudheusden (KU Leuven)
Go Yoshizawa (Osaka University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper illustrates how radiation monitoring by citizen scientists has emerged as a public issue in post-Fukushima Japan, and how citizen-initiated monitoring transforms ostensibly passive citizens into active citizen scientists. It asks how such processes reconfigure science and society.
Paper long abstract:
This paper illustrates how radiation monitoring by citizen scientists (e.g. Safecast; Citizens' Radioactivity Monitoring Project) has emerged as a public issue in post-Fukushima Japan, and how citizen-initiated monitoring transforms ostensibly passive citizens into active citizen scientists. Drawing on a conceptual distinction made in Japan between science by citizens and science for citizens, it argues that these citizen-science initiatives are best understood as expressions of scientific citizenship rather than as forms of public participation in scientific research. Whereas the latter form posits citizens as "sensors" or data providers, the former engages citizens in the definition of problems, data collection, and analysis; thereby foregrounding the necessity of opening up science and science policy processes to the public (Irwin 1995). The paper shows how various citizen-science groups articulate this demand for a more open, democratic science by generating their own participatory, open-source data, do-it-yourself measurement devices, and radiation maps, and by empowering publics with reliable, actionable data about their environments. It asks whether, and how, these processes strengthen or undermine present-day government-science-society relationships, as citizen scientists resourcefully "work around" established institutes and university-industry linkages (Meyer 2013) to create their own communities and forms of scientific citizenship. Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen science: A study of people, expertise and sustainable development. Psychology Press. Meyer, M. (2013). "Domesticating and democratizing science: A geography of do-it-yourself biology," Journal of Material Culture, 18(2): 117-134.
Citizen science: active citizenship vs. data commodification