More than ten years on from the founding of CSaP, science-policy relations have come under new pressures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Researchers and policy makers are increasingly dependent on one another to navigate the many and pressing societal implications of Covid-19, yet their success also hinges on the trust and cooperation of their citizens. We had already begun convening our network to re-think how innovations in citizen science may contribute to public policy; but because of the global interest sparked by Covid-19 in citizen involvement in the scientific and policy processes, we are expanding our mission of brokering trusted relationships between academia and policy, to actively explore a third crucial prong: citizen engagement.
The last decade has seen a surge in the number and variety of projects where citizens can play an active role in research, innovation and the development of evidence-based policy. Over the past year, CSaP has organised events to explore recent developments in citizen science and their potential to be taken up in public policy.
At a CSaP lecture in September 2019, Professor Johannes Vogel from the Berlin Natural History Museum discussed his hopes for democratic engagement with the 21st century’s grand challenges, and Professor Jennifer Gabrys from the University of Cambridge shared insights from her projects in environmental citizen science.
CSaP also held a virtual conference in May 2020, convening policy makers, scientists, practitioners and scholars interested in engaging citizens more actively in policy making. The conference provided an opportunity to discuss different forms of citizen science, the scale and sustainability of citizen science initiatives, and new forms of citizenship that could result from increased engagement.
Expertise under Pressure
CSaP has also grappled with the theme of citizen science in conjunction with Expertise under Pressure, a project funded by the Humanities and Social Change International Foundation, which aims to explore questions about the consequential and controversial nature of expert judgment. As part of this project, CSaP investigated the impact of Covid-19 on citizen science and, in particular, the surge in citizen participation in Covid-19 research that accompanied lockdowns across the world. Covid-19 citizen science has been especially interesting to study in that it has both brought the benefits of citizen science to the public eye while simultaneously restricting participation to a seemingly one-way transfer of data and knowledge.
As part of this programme of work and in partnership with the UNDP Accelerator Labs, CSaP will convene policy makers, academics and citizens from the UK and Argentina to explore how environmental citizen science can help pave the way for a green recovery. Over the coming year, CSaP will be producing an edited collection of essays on innovations in citizen science for public policy.