Research synergy to explore legitimization strategies for contested uses of citizen-generated data for policy

25.01.2021

By Anna Berti Suman, Sven Schade and Yasuhito Abe

The article is the result of a research synergy between Asia (Japan) and the EU (Italy and the Netherlands), supported by the 'COST Action CA15212: Citizen Science to promote creativity. scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe',

In the piece, featured in Open Access on the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, special issue From student strikes to the extinction rebellion: New protest movements shaping our future edited by B. J. Richardson, we investigate how citizens use data they gather as a rhetorical resource for demanding environmental policy interventions and advancing environmental justice claims. While producing citizen-generated data (CGD) can be regarded as a form of 'social protest', citizens and interested institutional actors still have to 'justify' the role of lay people in producing data on environmental issues. Such actors adopt a variety of arguments to persuade public authorities to recognize CGD as a legitimate resource for policy making and regulation. So far, scant attention has been devoted to inspecting the different legitimization strategies adopted to push for institutional use of CGD. In order to fill this knowledge gap, we examine which distinctive strategies are adopted by interested actors: existing legitimization arguments are clustered, and strategies are outlined (see image above), based on a literature review and exemplary cases. We explore the conceivable effects of these strategies on targeted policy uses. Two threads emerge from the research, entailing two complementary arguments: 

  • namely that listening to CGD is a governmental obligation
  • and that including CGD is ultimately beneficial for making environmental decisions.

We conclude that the most used strategies include showing the scientific strength and contributory potential of CGD, whereas environmental rights and democracy-based strategies are still rare. We discuss why we consider this result to be problematic and outline a future research agenda.

Keywords: citizen-generated data, citizen science, environmental human rights, legitimacy, policy uptake

CITE AS:

Berti Suman, A., Schade, S., & Abe, Y. (2020). Exploring legitimization strategies for contested uses of citizen-generated data for policy. In B. J. Richardson (Ed.), From student strikes to the extinction rebellion: New protest movements shaping our future (Special issue ed., Vol. 11, pp. 74-102). Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781800881099.00008  

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