The project at a glance
The project output for 2020 is showcased on the #CitizenSData Community page of the European Commission JRC Science Hub: "Legitimizing the use of Citizen Generated Data"
On June 27, 2019, a landmark court decision was released in Texas, in which a judge found the petrochemical company
Formosa Plastics Corporation, liable for violating the Clean Water Act because of plastic discharge into local waters. The
case was brought by a civic group based in part on citizen sensed-evidence which involved volunteer observations
performed over years. This practice entailing grassroots-driven environmental monitoring could be qualified as 'Citizen
Science' and, more specifically, 'Citizen Sensing'. The contamination could not be proved through existing data held by
competent authorities since the company never filed any record of pollution with the competent authority. Rather, the
monitoring and data collection was almost entirely conducted by local residents.
We will redefine Citizen Sensing as a manifestation of the broader Citizen Science practice having a potential as source of evidence acceptable in environmental litigation, as an exercise of the right to contribute to environmental information and even as a method to foster environmental mediation.
The research question and state-of-the-art
Cases such as the Formosa litigation are expected to increase drastically. They pose urgent research questions. Above all, the case motivates an investigation of the potential of introducing Citizen Sensing as a source of evidence in litigation over environmental wrongdoings. Furthermore, Citizen Sensing may also play a role in avoiding the court stage, as a tool to mediate the environmental conflict and to steer the responsible company to adopt an environmentally-compliant behaviour. Related research is still in its infancy. The few championing actors in the debate are located in the U.S., not flanked by a parallel inquiry from the European perspective.
The key objective of the Sensing for Justice project is to fill this knowledge gap in order to avoid a possible scientific and legislative vacuum, and provide newly required research capacity in the EU. The research will be hosted by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, currently leading actor in the research on Citizen Science for environmental monitoring and reporting, which will allow us to play a crucial role in the enactment of measures to release Citizen Science for litigation and mediation's potential across the EU.