The making of citizen science: network alliances between Science Shops and CSOs engaging in science and air pollution

Søsser Brodersen

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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    This dissertation is the result of a PhD project entitled The Making of Citizen Science – Network Alliances between Science Shops and CSOs Engaging in Science and Air Pollution. The PhD project was carried out at Department of Management Engineering, Section for Innovation and Sustainability, at the Technical University of Denmark. The project’s aim is to understand how Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), through alliance building and network constructions with Science Shops and similar community-based research units, engage with scientists in order to impact air pollution problems. The PhD project’s agenda is inspired by the institutionalization of more democratic and participatory approaches to knowledge making, which is reflected in several EU-funded research projects, including one of the sponsors of this project, the EU-funded ACCENT Network of Excellence. The ACCENT Network wished to meet the EU requirement of communication with the general public by investigating how Science Shops interact with CSOs. The analytical approach of this PhD project is inspired by Science and Technology Studies (STS) in general, more specifically by Irwin & Michael’s (2003) concept of Ethno-Epistemic Assemblages, and by the Actor-Network Theory and Callon’s (1986a) sociology of translations. A version of these approaches is used to study nine cases of network alliances between Science Shops and similar organizations and CSOs. The application of Callon’s sociology of translation to the case studies contributes to understanding why and how the actors sought to stabilize controversies, as well as the mechanisms contributing to the networks’ success in affecting the problems experienced by the CSOs. It is concluded that network alliances between CSOs, Science Shops and scientists can cause two types of effects: effects on the CSOs’ original problems, and/or other forms of effects. It is interesting to note that these other forms of effects can result in both cases that affected the CSOs’ original problems as well as cases that failed to do so. It can be concluded that CSOs can influence such actors as industry and local authorities and their practices through alliances with Science Shops and scientists. It is further concluded that the Science Shops’ role can have decisive impact on whether networks succeed in influencing the problems experienced by the CSOs. When the Science Shops apply an impact-seeking approach, the networks are more likely to succeed in affecting the CSOs’ original problems than when the Science Shops apply the mediation approach. It is also concluded that scientific documentation in itself is not sufficient to solve a problem but can be used to open discussions related to the problem. What is important is that the scientists in the Science Shop, or at a university department co-operating with a Science Shop, are willing to assume other roles than just being producers of knowledge without any obligation to bring the produced knowledge into a context, and without being willing to discuss the premises for the produced knowledge. The case studies indicate that in order to understand the effects of networks like these, we need to broaden ANT’s analytical term ‘stabilization’. It should be understood as something that strengthens rather than merely something that is taken-for-granted or black-boxed. It is also argued that the project’s Callon-inspired analysis of network alliances can be seen as an elaboration of one of the concepts in Sociological studies of Science-Public relations, namely Irwin & Michael’s (2003) concept of Ethno-Epistemic Assemblages (EEAs). The project elaborates the EEA concept through a more detailed empirical understanding of 1) how knowledge is comprised of a mixture of both ‘lay and expert’ knowledge; 2) how this blurring of knowledge may take place; and 3) how CSOs and scientists, through this mixture of knowledge, try to cause effects like political influence and/or new research interests. Finally, it is concluded that despite the gloomy prospects for the ‘old’ Science Shops, there may be openings in relation to establishing new Science Shops in other countries. Such possibilities can be seen in both the recently finished EU-financed TRAMS project (Training and Mentoring of Science Shops) and in the coming EU-financed project PERARES (Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society).
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
    PublisherDTU Management
    Number of pages267
    ISBN (Print)978-87-90855-99-4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
    SeriesPhD thesis


    • public engagement
    • CSOs
    • Science Shops
    • EEA
    • democracy
    • ANT


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