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194 9 ◆ Interdisciplinarity Reloaded? Drawing Lessons from “Citizen Science” Barbara Prainsack and Hauke Riesch The idea that laypeople make significant contributions to scientific research, not by means of being objects of research but by acting as researchers themselves, is attracting increasing attention within academic and public discourse (e.g., Silvertown 2009; Nielsen 2012; Shirk et al. 2012). In this chapter we will take a closer look at the practices that are subsumed under labels such as citizen science (CS), as well as the rhetoric mobilized around it. The current celebration of the “emergence” of CS, which tends to emphasize novelty and disruption at the cost of continuity and conservation, allows us to draw important lessons for the study of interdisciplinarity as a social and political phenomenon. Both interdisciplinarity and CS are imbued with the hope that they will change science in radical ways and redeem it from some of its shortcomings, such as institutional conservatism, overreliance on credentialed authority, as well as epistemic inertia. We argue that these aspirations are, first and foremost, fantasies that CS and interdisciplinarity, for all the advantages and benefits that they bring, are institutionally and structurally unable to fulfill. At the same time, these fantasies are real in that they articulate preferences regarding what types of collaboration and research are valuable (and valorizable). The Many Lives of Citizen Science Scientists, science writers, and those keen on promoting further and meaningful public engagement with science seem to be intrigued by the phenomenon that Interdisciplinarity Reloaded 195 people without professional training contribute not only to the regulation of science , but to some of the core activities of scientific knowledge production. This phenomenon has been discussed under labels such as CS, public participation in scientific research (Shirk et al. 2012), or similar notions. CS—­ which we use here to refer to any project or initiative that includes people without professional training in a pertinent subject in the creation of scientific knowledge—­ is often seen to fulfill a dual function: The first is to enable or advance scientific research in ways that established science finds difficult to pursue. CS may be seen as “better ” due to the lack of resources within established institutions, or because the crowdsourcing of certain tasks allows data collection, data analysis, or other aspects of scientific knowledge production to be done in a faster or more efficient way.1 These ambitions bear a striking resemblance with arguments made in favor of interdisciplinarity, where pooling of resources, cooperation between different groups, and the importance of outside perspectives have been suggested to “improve” science (Nissani 1997). Second, for participating members of the public, which a project may recruit by word of mouth, online, or through community gatekeepers, CS is often seen to offer new opportunities to contribute to actual scientific research. “Laypeople ” are assumed to want to participate just for fun, for the opportunity to learn more about science, to contribute to research on a disease that they or people close to them suffer from, often from their own home or back garden. In some cases, participation is driven by the desire to create alternative ways of knowing; in community-­ based participatory research, for example, citizens and professional experts collaborate in designing and conducting research that addresses acute needs of underserved communities (Brown and Mikkelsen 1997; Brown et al. 2004; Brown 2013). An added benefit is, in the views of some actors and commentators, that “citizen scientists” learn not only about the subject area to which they are contributing , but more generally about how science works. In fact, within science education, learning about the “nature of science” has been identified as a key component of transmitting science knowledge (e.g., Bell et al. 2001; Abd-­ El-­ Khalick et al. 1998). It is seen to equip students and the public at large with a working appreciation of the limitations and uncertainties of new and controversial scientific developments. This, in turn, is seen to enhance their capacity to contribute to the democratic processes of science governance (Kolstø 2000). These aspirations of offering supposedly radically new ways of doing science, by asking questions that were never asked before, by collecting data in new ways, or by bringing different groups together, also mirror some of those hopes associated with interdisciplinarity. Because of being seen as meeting the objectives of scientific knowledge creation and public engagement simultaneously, CS has often been portrayed as a 196 changing context of research win-­ win situation. Within this narrative, CS makes meaningful and “truly” participatory science...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813585918
Related ISBN
9780813585888
MARC Record
OCLC
965905972
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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