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Title: Citizen science in the nuclear field: An exploration of its potential in governing nuclear incidents, accidents, and post-disaster situations
Authors: Van Oudheusden, Michiel
Van Hoyweghen, Ine
Issue Date: 2016
Conference: International Conference “Producing and experimenting with publics in new political economies location:Ulg, Liege date:June 28-30, 2016
Abstract: Citizen science (CS) is a form of science developed and enacted by citizens, typically with citizen volunteers collecting and/or analyzing various kinds of data. As CS serves public purposes (e.g. educational goals) and emanates within democratic and participatory cultures (e.g. the open science movement), it potentially broadens scientific research and facilitates public participation in science policy. Whereas the role of CS is well documented in fields such as amateur astronomy, biohacking, video gaming, etc., there is a dearth of research about the role of CS in the nuclear field. Yet, following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, CS has demonstrably contributed to filling knowledge and information gaps, as citizens in the affected areas monitor radioactivity in the environment and communicate about environmental risks (e.g. Citizens’ Radioactivity Monitoring Project). In this
process, citizen scientists have voiced ardent criticism of government and industry, as these institutes are seen to deliberately inhibit open knowledge sharing. Taking these insights as an entry point, this paper probes the potential of CS in the governance of nuclear incidents/accidents, emergency situations, and in post-disaster recovery. Drawing on past and present CS initiatives connected to
nuclear incidents and accidents in Japan, the USA, Canada, and the UK, it conceptualizes the social spaces in which CS emerges; ascertains which knowledge, information and decision-making challenges CS addresses; and determines which collective lessons can be drawn to ensure more legitimate and socially robust nuclear governance. Particular attention is given to the role governments, industries, and established scientists can, and should, assume as potential facilitators, patrons, or challengers of a more collective, open approach to disaster preparedness and response. The latter category comprises
social scientists, who in Japan have been criticized for “disengaging” with CS practice, thereby limiting
opportunities for contextual learning about disasters and even hampering post-trauma disaster
recovery. The paper engages with the following conference themes: The future role of publics in processes of government/governance; Empowering publics in new innovation processes.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Centre for Sociological Research

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