Engaging Publics: Biodiversity Data Collection and the Geographies of Citizen Science

Toogood, Mark orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2403-0338 (2013) Engaging Publics: Biodiversity Data Collection and the Geographies of Citizen Science. Geography Compass, 7 (9). pp. 611-621. ISSN 1749-8198

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Official URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28...


This article addresses issues surrounding the role of public participation in expert-driven biodiversity
monitoring and research, reviewing a range of cross-disciplinary insights and critiques that are important
for recent debate in environmental geographies. The paper identifies normative, instrumental and
substantive motivations dimensions of such initiatives and examines the tensions within these. A key
focus concerns the ‘win–win’ model of public participation in scientific research (PPSR); claims of
multiple benefits from PPSR, such as increased knowledge of biodiversity issues and of participants’
local environments; claims that doing PPSR is a form of ‘social learning’; and suggestions that engagement
in science will change attitudes and environmental behaviour. The ‘win–win’ model is found to
veil important issues about the politics of knowledge. These include the framing of citizenship in
‘citizen’ science, the production of certain kinds of scientific subjects within PPSR, the framing of
relationships between professional and non-professional parties, assumptions about the role of ‘data’
in the rational evidenced-based process and anxieties amongst professional scientists around relations
between data quality and the breadth of participation. Whilst the affective engagement with subject
and the non-human world in PPSR is rich and diverse and the expert, non-expert boundary a
mutable one (particularly in natural history), there is increasing contention that the win–win model
for PPSR only works if we overlook aspects of these knowledge politics.

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