LTW10: Searching for Sustainability: The Role of Civic Science
LTW10: Searching for Sustainability: The Role of Civic Science
Backstrand (2003): Reframing the Role of Experts, Policy-Makers and Citizens in Environmental Governance
Participatory, civil, citizen, civic, stakeholder and democratic science are catchwords that signify the ascendancy of participatory paradigm in science policy. The participatory turn to scientific expert advice can be interpreted as a resistance to the perceived scientization of politics, which implies that political and social issues are better resolved through technical expertise than democratic deliberation.
citizens and the public have a stake inthe science-politics interface, which can no longer be viewed as an exclusive domain for scientific experts and policy-makers only
Is it possible, or even desirable, to include citizen participation in the production, validation and application of scientific knowledge?
A central proposition is that the promotion of civic science needs to be coupled with a theoretical understanding of the institutional, normative and epistemological divisions characterizing the term.
I suggest that the science-politics interface needs to be reframed to include the triangular interaction between scientific experts, policy-makers and citizens. The citizen is not just the recipient of policy but an actor in the science-policy nexus.
scientific knowledge can be conceived as a global public good in which the citizens have a stake
The constructivist research agenda revolves around how scientific knowledge and practices are embedded in various cultural and political contexts as well as in societal discourses.
Studies of the role of scientific discourses in propelling policy action with regard to stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change and biological diversity signify this approach
importance of enhancing saliency, credibility and legitimacy of scientific assessment
In the wider post-positivist scholarship there is an ongoing critical revaluation of the status of expert knowledge in modern society.
What are the boundaries between scientific and non-scientific knowledge, expert and lay knowledge, global and local knowledge, risk assessment and risk management? On what basis can these boundaries be maintained?
The production of scientific knowledge is not viewed as external to environmental politics as in the
epistemic community approach
. The boundaries between institutions of scientific expert advice and policy-making are blurred
Science and politics are in this vein indistinct realms with fluid boundaries subject to negotiation. Research on boundary work and boundary organizations highlight how
legitimacy, credibility and authority of scientific expert knowledge
are maintained by establishing
borders between the scientific and political spheres
. The implication of this analysis is that scientific advisory processes are deeply
with political processes.
Aims of Civic Science
First, civic science as
underlines the importance of increasing public participation by bringing citizens and civil society to the heart of the scientific endeavor
Consensus conferences, participatory technology assessment, citizen juries and public hearings in science and technology affairs are examples of institutionalized practices that attempt to incorporate citizens in environmental risk management
civic science defined in terms of
aims at reversing the
skewed representation in the production of science
. The lack of representation of
women and indigenous people
in the scientific enterprise was highlighted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Moreover, the poor representation of
scientists from developing countries
and countries in transition in international scientific assessment processes is recognized as highly problematic...
Which and whose knowledges are represented as true, legitimate and authoritative? These insights are supported by critical feminist epistemology questioning the universal aspiration of modern science and calling for an inclusion of local, subjugated knowledge in societal and technological decision-making
The representative paradox of science is that a very small group who holds the title of "scientist" can speak on behalf of a universal humanity (Fuller, 2000)
challenges the conduct of scientific problem solving by aspiring to transform the institutions of science to incorporate democratic principles
Can the rules of modern democracy be readily transferred to the heart of scientific inquiry without compromising scientific quality and politicizing scientific expertise?
Why CS emerged:
As a response to:
the emergence of "
big" planetary science:
civic science can be conceived as a reaction to the expansion of "mega-science" enabled by innovations in global environmental modelling
is epitomized by the expansion of global models of atmospheric, hydrological and terrestrial systems in international negotiations, research programs and international organizations
This emerging global environmental change science has been represented as global and universal knowledge even if the modelling activities are concentrated in a few laboratories in the Northern hemisphere
Critics point to a failure to couple global western scientific knowledge with local and indigenous knowledge, agendas, needs and concerns. A remedy for this is to increase public participation in scientific assessment processes, recognizing the "glocal" level of knowledge production.
the emergence of the
more pronounced in Europe in the backdrop of food safety scares in the 1990s
inflationary use of expert advice has paradoxically produced more uncertainty
Science has been called on to provide a firm basis for justifying and making political decisions credible
is in many areas provisional, uncertain and incomplete. Thus, competing expert knowledge has in many instances
given rise to a battle between experts and counter-experts
(link to exam question)
Corporate science has contested environmental advocacy science and vice versa
This politicization of scientific knowledge has paved the way for the erosion of the authority and legitimacy of science as objective knowledge. When the public experiences that science can be both contested and uncertain, the policy-process, which relies on purportedly objective knowledge, loses credibility. The erosion of the legitimating function of science in certain domains has spurred the calls for making science more accountable and democratic.
Rationales for Civic Science
If geared toward enhancing public understanding, can potentially
mitigate the growing public disenchantment
with scientific expertise
emerged in the backdrop of the rhetoric of openness that marked the European policy debate on science and technology issues in the 1990s
The food crisis in Europe reflects a fundamental lack of confidence among citizens toward the scientific and regulatory management of these issues. As a corollary, the public has become more skeptical of both governmental and corporate science while investing more trust in the perceived "independence" of science authorized by nongovernmental organizations such as Greenpeace.
the basic root of the declining confidence in expert knowledge is the public misunderstanding of science (leading to the Deficit model)
The deficit model has been criticized on many accounts and is increasingly rejected for its problematic assumptions
Communication is one-way and on unequal terms, from the scientists to the public. The nature of scientific knowledge is not problematized in spite of the growing recognition that scientific knowledge is provisional and uncertain in many regulatory domains.
This assumes that scientific knowledge is superior compared to other forms of knowledge. The stewards for sustainability should be scientists and engineers who need to reach out to the public.
The sheer complexity of global environmental problems necessitates a
reflexive scientific expertise
a wide array of lay and local knowledge
In light of non-remedial scientific uncertainties, ecological vulnerability and irreversibility, the policy process should be open, transparent and institutionalize self-reflection.
The gist of the argument is that we are witnessing a transition from normal to post-normal science. The concept of post-normal science captures issues defined by high decision stakes, large system uncertainties and intense value disputes. (stationarity to non-stationarity)
Problems such as climate change, GMOs or biodiversity, which are fraught with uncertainties, cannot be adequately resolved by resorting to the puzzle-solving exercises of Kuhnian normal science.
This encompasses a re-orientation of science toward incorporating multiple stakeholders. Peer review should include "extended peer communities" in order to enhance dialogue between stakeholders such as the NGOs, industry, public, and the media.
proponents for increasing citizenry and public accountability in scientific endeavors are driven not by a general desire for democratization but to make science more effective (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1992)
I.e. We don't want to incorporate CS because it's 'truer or greener' but because it offers another perspective and we can't afford to narrow our perspectives when the issues are so complex
The transition from industrial society (with its calculable risks) to risk society (with its incalculable mega-hazards) requires a redefinition of the rules, principles and institutions of decision-making
NGOs, the public and business should become active co-producers in the social process of constructing knowledge, revitalizing "sub-politics" as conceived in the risk society thesis
Hence, the traditional objectivist account of science has to be replaced by a more inclusive science that institutionalizes self-doubt, self-interrogation and self-reflexivity
The primary purpose of civic science is to
extend the principles of democracy
to the production of scientific knowledge
The first justification for a broader citizen involvement in science and technology is made by those who favor "strong" democracy,
encompasses participatory, not only representative, democracy (Barber 1994)
Basically, those who bear the consequences of decisions should be able to have a say.
A basic tenet in this model is to promote public use of reason, argument and free deliberation. Free deliberation has the potential to transform preferences, enable a new collective will and render public decisions more legitimate.
An unsettled issue is whether the rules for production of scientific knowledge will have to change in order to enact civic science.
Civic science can be conceived as an instrument to dethrone science or to deprive scientific knowledge from its authority and legitimacy conferred by society
Issue: citizen deliberation in science will be cumbersome, time-consuming, ineffective and slow
problems grasping the complexities of the highly specialized knowledge of environmental science. Elite models of democracy are highly skeptical of lay citizen participation
The ordinary citizen does not only lack time and capacity to understand the complexity of issues, but the public can be outright ignorant and irrational
They should trust specialized experts as they trust their political representatives.
Issue: advent of global environmental problem-solving may limit the scope for civic science
ongoing experiments with citizen and participatory expertise have primarily taken place at the domestic level. Is the strong version of civic science compatible with the effort to manage global environmental risks relying on global modelling and "big science"?
Issue: deliberative democracy may be insufficient in promoting the democratization of scientific expertise
Deliberation does not necessarily change the ground rules for debate and may ignore the way power enters speech itself. The power largely resides in setting the agenda and establishing norms and rules for decision-making.
: We've moved beyond the issue of trying to harness nature to the issue of trying to deal with the consequences of techno-economic development itself - i.e. think about social development that arises as a reflex to previous decisions/activities, and how this can lead to unintended consequences - useful as it gives a long-term perspective
: Concept by
: the manner in which modern society organizes in response to risk - a risk society is "a society increasingly preoccupied with the future (and also with safety), which generates the notion of risk," - beck defines it as "a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernisation itself
Civic Science in Sustainability Science:
How do the current proposals to restructure science toward the goals of sustainable development fare with civic science?
in the evolving field of sustainability science a more participatory account of scientific expertise is articulated
An overarching idea is that science needs to turn toward society and even establish a "new contract" with society.
was consolidated in preparation for the World Summit for Sustainable Development
Inter-disciplinarity, policy-relevancy and holistic perspectives are cornerstones
Sustainability science has to be accountable beyond peer review and include a variety of actors in assessment processes
Moreover, the local-global connectivity is a central aspect of sustainability science. Global knowledge about environmental degradation has to be coupled with local knowledge to produce sustainable solutions.
In the quest for sustainability, "universal" knowledge must be connected to "place-based" knowledge.
indigenous or traditional knowledge is recognized as a cumulative body of knowledge that can provide alternative, local perspectives. Science and traditional knowledge should be coupled in order to realize a more equitable partnership as well as mutual learning
Nevertheless, the focus is more on participation than on changing the rules and practices of scientific knowledge production, utilization and communication
Sustainability science envisions an increased transparency and participation in science and technology in order to foster the legitimacy of the scientific endeavour
These proposals can be conceived as a step toward the kind of reflexive scientization that Beck calls for.
However, increased participation in scientific assessment does not necessarily have bearing on the practices, norms and institutions of scientific knowledge production - e.g. getting people to photograph birds in their gardens doesn't go a long way to the kind of rules change that CS is advocating
Sustainability science does not address how the practices of science have to change to accommodate democratic participation
unanswered: how institutions and procedures in science have to change to enable broader participation
there is a lack of a coherent social science perspective
the field of sustainability science is still an expert-driven inter-disciplinary endeavour, it simply/only raises critical issues on how to make science more transparent and responsive to the needs of society
Basically, there's an issue of whether science should remain the privilege of experts and should retain its status as the superior form of knowledge production, OR, should it be geared towards a participatory, reflexive and collaborative effort involving societal stakeholders?
Is it defensible to privilege scientific knowledge over other knowledge forms?
says: questions the boundary between scientific expert knowledge and lay knowledge, between global western knowledge and local indigenous knowledge - all expert knowledge is situated in a specific political and cultural context, inherently value-laden and imbued with worldview - scientific and technological decision-making should rest on participation by and collaboration among scientists, citizens and civil society
says: an objectivist epistemology emphasizes the uniqueness of scientific knowledge epitomized by its systematic features, its transformative effects and its global impacts - i.e. there's things science can only achieve because of its isolation from citizens - The systematic features of science, in terms of the capacity to observe, explain, describe and represent the world, reflect an unprecedented accumulation and progress of knowledge - note that it's about accumulation - this doesn't fit with paradigm shift concepts - local/indigenous knowledge: these knowledge forms do not display the systematic and universal features of modern science - the uniqueness of science grants natural scientists and engineers a continued privileged status in the quest for uncovering the scientific aspects for sustainability
Therefore, no universal solution can be offered with respect to the balance between democratic and technocratic modes of scientific decision-making. The success of civic science is largely dependent on the context, i.e. the nature of the environmental risk and problem at hand. Finding a balance between traditional scientific inquiry and participatory expertise and between technical and deliberative approaches will be an ongoing endeavor.
On behalf of the UNDP, Mason et al (2012) tasked to map vulnerability to climate changes in West Bank and Gaza
Was to produce Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Programme of Action for the Palestinian Authority
Basically, they went over there and quantified what the scientific issues were, but then they found during public consultation that the public were saying that if you want to understand the issues we face due to climate change, you also need to understand the issues we face due to conflict
The specific focus was on water and food security in light of perceived climate change risks, drawing on local environmental knowledge and social values
Did interviews with state and non-state 'expert' actors
Did questionnaires on climate impact and vulnerability
Went on field trips to regions deemed to have 'high' climate vulnerability
Held scoping workshops and deliberative workshops - this was where it was agreed with stakeholders that the focus should be on water and food
Note: In the workshops, rooms were almost always dominated by men; at summer courses, nearly all the students were female, however, once you move into government, it's all men - women get educated to marry - note also that actors joined due to the promise of a free lunch
Outcome of Consultations:
UNEP had asked to only focus on the biophysical elements of the issue (SL rise, increasing temperatures etc.)
E.g. A standard vulnerability mapping would be saying stuff like 'gaza is using 3 times the sustainable limit of its water resources and most of the aquifer is contaminated already'
But all the stakeholders were highlighting that their climate vulnerability has been impacted by 'the siege' that's been in place since 1997
Israel has closed the country off, under grounds of security concerns from the Hammas group
Therefore, if you look at the diagram, you can see on the left hand side is an additional 'risk' which is that caused by the closure of Palestine
This is thus an example of citizen science - a citizen is informing a scientist of things the scientist hadn't been trained or told to think about when looking at an issue - they took his thinking outside of the box - UNEP not happy with this as they only wanted to see the technical stuff
Examples of Risks due to Conflict
Sanctions such as limited fishing grounds, smaller market for crops, reduced availability of pesticides and herbicides, increased solid waste tipping etc. all leading to consequences such as increased groundwater contamination, lower yields, lower incomes from agriculture, all of which then reduce livelihood wellbeing and public health
An example of how conflict and environmental vulnerability are linked: closing the country off means very limited aquifer supply, this means it's overdrawn which allows salt water to permeate into the aquifer, leading to contamination which will eventually render it undrinkable
E.g if you want to understand why they don't have enough food supply, can you really just look at increasing climate change decreasing yields or do you also need to appreciate the fact that the conflict has meant people have had to abandon many greenhouses used for farming in?
In the West Bank:
Again, stakeholders argued you need to understand CC through the lens of the occupation
Things like restrictions on farmer's movements, restrictions on ability to extract water, etc. all feed into reducing yields
Of course, you need to be careful about motivations to exaggerate, but what was said more or less correlated with what the humanitarian organisations were seeing on the ground
If the farmers can't get to tend their land, which is now separated by a wall, for a certain amount of time, it is confiscated from them
Civic Science and Sustainability Science
Share key concerns - we need participation, transparency and we need to take a problem-based approach
SS Recommends 'co-production' between scientists and citizens - but rather than accepting that there's an issue with how science is done, they treat this as an 'inclusion' of the stakeholders/citizens and
notes that SS doesn't yet have a clear outline of how the norms, institutions and procedures of science must be changed to increase inclusivity
He argues SS hasn't theorised enough its own post-positivist position
SS talks about the need for co-production, but doesn't yet grasp the reforms needed for if they truly believe in the post-positivist approach
SS sees social science as an input to SS to help us solve issues in applied ways, but the post-positivist argument is much more radical - E.g. Thinking back to Haraway; science is more infused with values and politics than SS is acknowledging - e.g. there's nothing yet in SS that acknowledges the gendered nature of scientific systems
So whilst many conflate CS and SS, there's a clear argument, particularly that the Hardal perspective hasn't accounted enough for PP views
What is it? (Wiki)
Aka Citizen Science
Conducted in whole or in part by non-professional, non-expert, amateurs
Linked to sustainability science as social values are endogenous to it in addition to factual information and hypotheses
To best find out what these social values are, we use broad and inclusive public discourses on sustainability
Another vital reason for using it is that people have place-based knowledge that scientists may not have/have access to
Backstrand argues that as scientists are finite groups, civic science is a great way to pull in local understanding
European breeding bird survey data provide input for the Farmland Bird Index, adopted by the European Union as a structural indicator of sustainable development
the Monitoring through many eyes project collates thousands of underwater images of the Great Barrier Reef and provides an interface for elicitation of reef health indicators ( Queensland University of Technology)
A study from 2016 indicates that the largest impact of citizen science is in research on biology, conservation and ecology, and is utilized mainly as a methodology of collecting and classifying data (Kullenberg, 2016)
Models and Conceptions
How can dynamic nature-society interactions be better incorporated into earth modelling systems? (including lags and inertia)
Current conceptions are heavily earth systems biased
Most SS theorists believe that systems theory is fundamental to the framework
Hulme argues that CC modelling can displace certain key social science understandings, leading to the naturalisation of environmental issues, leaving it in need of more input from human societies, economies, politics etc.
Many social scientists don't like systems theory - it's difficult to use and consider history, and it neglects human agency - see Hulme's concerns on this
Vulnerability and Resilience
What is it that determines the vulnerability and resilience of the nature-society system in particular kinds of places, and for particular types of ecosystems and human livelihoods?
Which human activities are eroding ability of social and ecological systems to absorb changes and where is this taking place?
What type of human-induced changes are compatible with 'natural', endogenous disturbance regimes?
Resilience normally means the ability of a system to maintain itself in the face of external shocks - but here is used in a bigger way - to model how ecology and human features can hold their current living patterns in the face of particular shocks
We're now in a non-stationarity era: systems are going into domains of unpredictability - this is a difficult challenge for sustainability scientists: move away from understanding natural hazards to a more integrated society-caused disasters approach
Activities that could be making us more vulnerable include things like agricultural systems simplifying the environment, making them vulnerable to external shocks
E.g. people in the US learned that, like how lightning creates fires in nature, they need to do the same to preserve complexity of the system - the resulting patchwork of trees that emerge are much more resilient - from this, we can analogously see the need for resilience in human systems
Scientifically meaningful limits or boundaries
Is there a way to define scientifically meaningful planetary boundaries that would provide effective warning or conditions beyond which nature-society systems are endangered?
This is a big area in sustainability: used to be discussed in terms of limits, but now it's less about resource depletion and more about coping with pollution loads
Steffan et al's planetary boundaries is the best articulation of this thinking - he argues it's the single most significant expression of sustainability science - pushes everything together into one picture, including the normative agenda that we must live within limits to save the planet
Covers all key global issues
Notes the uncertainties
As SS requires, it communicates nature-society issues through science in an understandable way
What incentive structures, including markets, rules and norms, can most effectively improve social capacity to guide interactions between nature and society towards more sustainable trajectories, i.e. how do we set in place systems that facilitate a healthier nature-society relationship
Note that the Precautionary Principal recommends not waiting for additional proof - act as soon as we think there could be harm; EU tends to take this approach more - this PP is an example of 'framing' that facilitates certain actions and not others
Institutions for Research, Assessment and Decision-Support
How can we take research planning, observation, assessment and decision support - all of which are currently quite independent activities - and better integrate them into systems of adaptive management and social learning?
SS is all about problem-driven research, drawing from multiple disciplines
Future Earth (2012) is a great example of such a programme - it's trying to incorporate relevant international science programmes into one structure
SS is also very much in favour of generating more scientific capacity and institutional support in developing countries
Future Earth has made an explicit mandate to integrate social science into environmental thinking
Aligns with SS in that it wants a more sustainable future
FE is a post-positivest framing of science of the future
is a 10-year international research programme which aims to build knowledge about the environmental and human aspects of Global Change
What is it? (Wiki)
emerged in the 21st century as a new academic discipline
officially introduced with a "Birth Statement" at the World Congress "Challenges of a Changing Earth 2001"
reflects a desire to give the generalities and broad-based approach of “sustainability” a stronger analytic and scientific underpinning
brings together scholarship and practice, global and local perspectives from north and south, and disciplines across the natural and social sciences, engineering, and medicine (Clark, W.C., & Dickson, N. M. 2003.)
can be usefully thought of as "neither 'basic' nor 'applied' research but as a field defined by the problems it addresses rather than by the disciplines it employs (Ecologist William Clark)
focused on examining the interactions between human, environmental, and engineered systems to understand and contribute to solutions for complex challenges that threaten the future of humanity and the integrity of the life support systems of the planet, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and land and water degradation
provides a critical framework for sustainability (Komiyama, H., Takeuchi, K. 2006)
From Harvard's Sustainability Science programme page: 'Sustainability science' is problem-driven, interdisciplinary scholarship that seeks to facilitate the design, implementation, and evaluation of effective interventions that foster shared prosperity and reduced poverty while protecting the environment. It is defined by the problems it addresses rather than the disciplines it employs. It thus draws as needed from multiple disciplines of the natural, social, medical and engineering sciences, from the professions, and from the knowledge of practice
Others take a much broader view of sustainability science, emphasizing the need to analyze the root causes of the fundamental unsustainability of the prevailing economic system, such as the emphasis on growth as key to solving political and social problems and advancing society's well-being. In a 2012 article entitled "Sustainability Science Needs to Include Sustainable Consumption,", Halina Brown argues that sustainability science must include the study of the sociology of material consumption and the structure of consumerist society, the role of technology in aggravating the unsustainable social practices, as well as in solving the problems they create, the macroeconomic theories that presuppose economic growth as a necessary condition for advancing societal well-being, and others
Knowledge-Structuring of Issues: essential first step in the effort to acquire a comprehensive view of sustainability issues
Coordination of Data: key research and data for sustainability are sourced from many scientific disciplines, topics and organisations. A major part of knowledge structuring will entail building up the tools that provide an “overview” of what is known - SS can construct a framework in which vast amounts of relative data can be accessed
Interdisciplinary Approaches: attempt, by sustainability science, to understand the integrated “whole” of planetary and human systems requires cooperation between scientific, social and economic disciplines, public and private sectors, academia and government. In short it requires a massive global cooperative effort and one major task of sustainability science is to assist integrated cross-disciplinary coordination
What is it? (Slides)
Kates et al 2001 was the seminal article on sustainability science
Led by lots of harvard scientists who set up a programme on it at their uni
'Sustainable Science seeks to understand the fundamental character of the interactions between nature and society, with a view to supporting sustainable development'
Post-positivist definition: First half is more objective, but the latter has an explicitly non-normative agenda - it's not value-free - this is deliberate as they're acknowledging that they're using science to support a certain agenda
Sustainability Science - Kates et al (2001)
Is basically an outline/extended definition of what SS is
Link: To LTW4: Climate Change - link to a form of 'civic science' in terms of how Climate Change sceptics act as citizen scientists to shape the science