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Citizen Science and the dissolution of inequalities in scientific knowledge production

: Wünsche, Hannes; Schimmler, Sonja

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Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung -WZB-:
2nd Weizenbaum Conference 2019. Proceedings. Online resource : Challenges of Digital Inequality, digital education, digital work, digital life, 16-17 May 2019, Berlin, Germany
Berlin, 2019
4 pp.
Weizenbaum Conference <2, 2019, Berlin>
Conference Paper, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer FOKUS ()

In the last years, a larger public has problematized academia and the practices of scientific knowledge production. “Fake Science” and “Alternative Facts” have become keywords in the public discourse on shared societal realities. Questioning scientific knowledge is one expression of a more general problem that western democracies face: a lack of public representation in their civic, and therefore scientific, epistemologies. Science studies, especially feminist science and technology studies, have investigated this issue, asking whose perspectives and norms are dominant in the scientific discourse, and found, not surprisingly, the production of scientific knowledge is up to an exclusive group of researchers. The Open Science movement tries to resolve this exclusiveness by methods, such as making research results and research data publicly available, installing transparency in peer review processes and by involving citizens into research practices. The latter is attributed the term“ Citizen Science” and especially focuses on the social dimension of openness in scientific knowledge production. Citizen Science aims to integrate scientists and non-scientists into the research process and therefore offers the opportunity to have a broader public represented in scientific knowledge production. In our contribution, we will examine different designs of Citizen Science projects. We will analyse their epistemological structure, showing how participants are represented in the process of knowledge production. To get a better understanding and to differentiate the epistemologies, we will introduce agency as central category to analyse digital, participatory knowledge practices. We will highlight the interdependencies between the degree of agency granted to the participants in Citizen Science research and their representation in knowledge production. Concluding we will2argue that there are two mayor participatory practices, both labelled as Citizen Science, which are fundamentally distinct concerning the democratic norm of (digital) equality. One fostering inequality by crowdsourcing scientific work, the other empowering citizens in knowledge production.