Citizen science from below or from above: a tale of two projects
Paper short abstract:
This paper aims to discuss and compare two citizen science initiatives, one promoted by scientists and through digital platforms, the other analogical and citizen-driven, in order to explore the potentials and pitfalls of the two formats, under the framework of active citizenship.
Paper long abstract:
Citizen science has been heralded as a new, more effective, form of public engagement with science. Going beyond boring lectures by scientists or faux-interactive push-button machines in science centres, citizen science promises to promote encounters between scientists and willing volunteers who can contribute to science by counting stars in galaxies, deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, identifying birds during country walks, or playing games to search for clogged blood vessels.
STS have been quick to unpack the limitations of citizen science: there is little involvement of citizens in other stages of the research process beyond data collection, the ethics of using free scientific labour is questionable, online platforms and digital tools facilitate global crowdsourcing but raise other barriers between researchers and the people assisting them.
Much less attention has been paid to other citizen science initiatives that break this mould of scientist-driven large-scale ICT-based projects. When citizens self-organise and seek out scientists who can provide guidance in their research, what do they achieve? What do these projects tell us about engagement with science? What limitations do they have?
This paper aims to discuss and compare two citizen science initiatives, one promoted by scientists and through digital platforms, the other analogical and citizen-driven, in order to explore the potentials and pitfalls of the two formats. Both projects involved senior citizens and took place in Portugal in recent years. . It is hoped that from it can be derived useful inputs on active citizenship that can inform the debate on multiple forms of citizen science.
Citizen science: active citizenship vs. data commodification