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Fr. 824

October 24, 2018

In its second sense, citizen science evinces many of the same qualities familiar from the deliberative democracy literature. Whereas as citizen science in Irwin’s sense focuses on increasing citizen inputs to science policy and scientific institutions, deliberative democracy broadly pushes ways of increasing citizen inputs to governance, policy and institutions. Riesch and Potter (2014) write:

 [S]ocial scientists in the Irwin tradition (such as Hemment et al., 2011) tend to attach to CS all their hopes and aspirations of a genuinely two-way dialogic public engagement exercise that gives an equal voice to the lay-experts and demonstrates that the divide between science and the public(s) is not as rigid as often supposed; this literature talks about ‘democracy’ and CS in a way that is almost completely absent in the scientists’ reflections on CS.

Herein, we find certain themes consonant with those in deliberative democracy: changing how policymakers and the public interact; undermining the expert / lay-person distinction through a new approach to epistemic egalitarianism; securing greater influence for the public.

To this one might add the following feature. Writing of the relation between the first and second senses of citizen science, Riesch and Potter observe how the latter attempts to shift outlooks on the public, much as deliberative democracy attempts to change how we view the public:

Itself a contested term, public engagement also faces differences in interpretation between science learning activities that follow a fairly traditional ‘deficit’ idea of science communication and a more democratically involved science policy exercise that foregrounds dialogue and participation […]

The paradigm view of the public shifts from the deficit model (the ignorant public) to a dialogue model (the capable public if given the necessary training, resources and time).

Indeed, they even share a number of difficulties, such as self-selection bias as an obstacle to the democratic ideal of inclusion:

Difficulties CS projects can have with recruiting participants were also noted by Evans et al. (2005) in their assessment of their own projects, noting especially that well-educated and middle class people tended to dominate therefore limiting the potential for outreach to deprived groups that is central to projects like OPAL.

All in all, similarities abound.

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