SensJus at the Engaging Citizen Science Conference in Aarhus, Denmark
The dialogue roundtable on
"Building spaces for reactive citizen science"
within the thematic session Citizen Science in Institutions
TOOK PLACE ON: Tuesday, April 26 13:30-15:00
AT THE: Richard Mortensen Room - Conference Centre, Aarhus University
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action-funded Sensing for Justice (SensJus) project researches the potential of grassroots-driven environmental (health) monitoring, i.e. reactive citizen science, as a source of evidence in environmental justice litigation, and as a tool for conflict mediation in extrajudicial setting. The project focuses on grey zones of citizen science were its recognition and valorisation is more difficult than for established, larger-scale, institutionally-funded citizen science initiatives. It targets especially very local, spontaneous, small-scale and low-budget initiatives that are not supported by a public agency nor linked with an academic institution, and that deploy in contexts dominated by high social distrust and conflict.
SensJus is exploring through fieldwork specific instances of this type of citizen science, for example in Basilicata where lay people are monitoring the impact of oil pollution on their land, exposing themselves to legal risks and to risks for their own health. SensJus is also exploring less conventional forms of citizen science including how to valorise knowledge of environmental and climate impacts from communities 'in motion' (e.g. people forced to migrate due to environmental disasters and climate change), framed as 'collective intelligence'. The goal is to facilitate policy, legal and judicial uptake of these forms of citizen science.
During the roundtable, we illustrated preliminary findings stemming from SensJus inquiry and stimulated a collective reflection along the following lines:
1) The need to establish spaces, which can be legal clinics at universities, museums or libraries where peer citizens, experts and students that can advise less structured and more spontaneous citizen science initiatives and assure them support in order to comply with applicable laws and regulations while carrying out their monitoring. These clinics could also provide support to avoid liabilities and health risks for participants stemming from citizen science. Lastly, they could provide support in terms of data management in the short and long term. We will take as inspiration the US CSA experience: https://citizenscience.org/get-involved/working-groups/law-policy/ask-a-legalquestion/.
2) The recognition at legal or at least political level of more 'reactive' forms of citizen science such as the AnalyzeBasilicata campaign in Italy (https://covacontro.org/) that are struggling to get funding and visibility, introducing a discussion on how to support these civic sentinels through creative forms (for example a 'union' similar to labour unions for the citizen scientists).
3) The reflection on new forms of communication that bring a wider audience closer to civic monitoring, for example through drawings and story-telling, as we did under the SensJus project with this free graphic novel recounting the story of a civic sentinel facing oil contamination (available at https://sensingforjustice.webnode.it/l/fumetto/). This method of communication could facilitate a dialogue also with low literacy citizen science participants such as those encountered in Basilicata which were mainly farmers and peasants.
The input of the discussants inspired an ongoing work of drafting a 'manifesto' to ensure that reactive environmental citizen science can flourish and increase its impact.
For questions on this session, write to Anna: Anna.BERTI-SUMAN@ec.europa.eu