How Does Citizen Science “Do” Governance? Reflections from the DITOs Project

This is the second post about papers in the special collection of papers in the journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice” was dedicated to Policy Perspectives of Citizen Science. The first paper is described in this post.

It is fairly rare to be able to catch an image close to the time when a concept for a paper was hatched but the case of the paper “How Does Citizen Science “Do” Governance? Reflections from the DITOs Project“, there is such thing:

WhatsApp Image 2018-06-27 at 8.39.12 PM

The paper emerged from discussion the Claudia Gobel started during a Doing It Together Science (DITOs) project meeting in Ljubljana in June 2018. Claudia, Aleks (both in the picture, mapping all the connections between project partners) together with Christian and myself discussed what we can learn from our project about the rationale for policy makers to commission and use citizen science. It is starting from the notion that citizen science relationships with political processes is more than a source of data or an object of research policy. DITOs, with its huge variety of events that were both aimed at policy makers and at the public, and across different places and topics, provided a good basis for the analysis. We identified four modes of governance that are relevant to DITOs, and this provided the basis for the paper. The paper can be accessed here.  The abstract of it is:

Citizen science (CS) is increasingly becoming a focal point for public policy to provide data for decision-making and to widen access to science. Yet beyond these two understandings, CS engages with political processes in a number of other ways. To develop a more nuanced understanding of governance in relation to CS, this paper brings together theoretical analysis by social science researchers and reflections from CS practice. It draws on concepts from Science and Technology Studies and political sciences as well as examples from the “Doing-It-Together Science” (DITOs) project. The paper develops a heuristic of how CS feeds into, is affected by, forms part of, and exercises governance. These four governance modes are (1) Source of information for policy-making, (2) object of research policy, (3) policy instrument, and (4) socio-technical governance. Our analysis suggests that these four dimensions represent different conceptions of how science and technology governance takes place that have not yet been articulated in the CS literature. By reflecting on the DITOs project, the paper shows how this heuristic can enrich CS. Benefits include project organisers better communicating their work and impacts. In its conclusion, the paper argues that focusing on the complexity of governance relations opens up new ways of doing CS regarding engagement methodologies and evaluation. The paper recommends foregrounding the broad range of governance impacts of CS and reflecting on them in cooperation between researchers and practitioners.

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