The Valuable Plurality of the Citizen Sciences



Citizen science is a multilayered concept. Although it is generally understood as a form of public engagement with science and technology, it can take various forms, with widely different roles for citizens. Despite this vastness, a “contributory” strand of citizen science dominates the field, which formally limits citizens’ roles to those of data gatherers for professional scientists or experts. This has led critics to argue that citizen science is not as inclusive, socially transformative, or democratizing as its advocates claim, and to appeals by scholars, practitioners, and policymakers for more dialogue and deliberation in all stages of citizen science processes. In this piece, we share our reflections on these questions drawing on our experiences as participant observers in contributory citizen science projects in various parts of the world. Responding to the above critiques, we illustrate how such projects can have emancipatory potential in terms of impacting policy agendas, inciting behavioral change, and engaging hard-to-reach societal groups. We argue that the future of citizen science lies in pluralizing the citizen sciences by experimenting with various modes of democratic representation, participation, and deliberation.


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Discussion Paper


2023-06-06 — Updated on 2024-02-15


How to Cite

Van Oudheusden, M., Berti Suman, A., Huyse, T., Huyse, H. and Medvecky, F. (2024) “The Valuable Plurality of the Citizen Sciences”, Science & Technology Studies, 37(1), pp. 10–20. doi: 10.23987/sts.126210.