Citizen, Science, and Citizen Science

Introduction by Shun-Ling and Chen Fa-ti Fan to special issue on citizen science: “The term citizen science has become very popular among scholars as well as the general public, and, given its growing presence in East Asia, it is perhaps not a moment too soon to have a special issue of EASTS on the topic. However, the quick expansion of citizen science, as a notion and a practice, has also spawned a mass of blurred meanings. The term is ill-defined and has been used in diverse ways. To avoid confusion, it is necessary to categorize the various and often ambiguous usages of the term and clarify their meanings.

As in any taxonomy, there are as many typologies as the particular perspectives, parameters, and criteria adopted for classification. There have been helpful attempts at classifying different modes of citizen science (Cooper and Lewenstein 2016Wiggins and Crowston 2012Haklay 2012). However, they focused primarily on the different approaches or methods in citizen science. Ottinger’s two categories of citizen science—“scientific authority driven” and “social movement based”—foreground the criteria of action and justification, but they unnecessarily juxtapose science and society; in any case, they may be too general and leaving out too much at the same time.1

In contrast, our classification will emphasize the different conceptions of citizen and citizenship in how we think about citizen science. We believe that this move can help us contextualize the ideas and practices of citizen science in the diverse socio-political conditions found in East Asia and beyond (Leach, Scoones, and Wynne 2005). To explain that point, we’ll begin with a few observations. First, the current discourse on citizen science tends to glide over such concepts as state, citizen, and the public and to assume that the reader will understand what they mean. This confidence originates in part from the fact that the default political framework of the discourse is usually Western (particularly Anglo-American). As a result, one often easily accepts a commonsense notion of participatory liberal democracy as the reference framework. However, one cannot assume that that is the de facto political framework for discussion of citizen science….(More)”.