"Against Citizen Science" - seems to provoke quite some discussions

@thomasmboa, @lu_cyP, @raronoff, @scifischer
we just had a great discussion on facebook, but let’s move it here to be more accessible and “civilized”.

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here is some info about the author of the article…

how are we to make progress in this regard??

Great comments on this important question!

Before getting to more substantial comments, just want to say we often waste much time discussing what is and what isn’t “citizen science”. But citizen science is not a thing, it’s just a label

I just spent three days with Alan Irwin (who coined the term in 1995) discussing what what it meant to him, and it meant something very different in 1995 than it does today. Plus, it means very different hings to different people. Plus, things that were never called citizen science when they were created (SETI@home; Galaxyzoo; and even, sorry, DIYbio) are now called citizen science.

So it is better to focus on what people do, rather than sick to the label. And ask hard questions about the relationships between specific DIYbio projects and neoliberal (if you want to call it that) policies of innovation.


i agree, and as a label it has no use to me. so byebye…
and let’s just do things.

Dude - you’re the one who moved it to the forum haha

Agree. One of the main problems with the article is that Mirowski conflates everything – top-down (crowdsourcing à la Sean Bonner Rick Bonney [ugh - tired and confused]) and bottom-up (Alan Irwin) – together. But i don’t think it’s his fault. It’s very common to see institutional citizen science initiatives claiming diy as part of their movement when it suits their agenda, but at the same time they have no understanding of (or interest in?) equitable access to resources.

I can’t be bothered to fight them any more, but I guess I’m not quite over it yet.

Neoliberalism in diybio is a whole other kind of co-option. We can get mad about that another day :wink:

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Yeah he seems to be speaking of a very specific type of citizen science (largely the crowdfunding side), but all goes to show how anything can and will be co-opted by large rich groups. We’ve see it through everyone’s favorite “Maker” movement, and the same things he points out in this essay about folks wanting more people to engage with science, and giant organizations wanting to exploit these ideas.

One way to go against that is just to keep on trudging along like dusjagr suggests and let these folks name call and pull apart each other (which is my suggestion also). Another thought is working against the idea being pushed of “I’m a scientist” because you get a tool and send data back to some headquarters, and rather trying to foster a full process of development and inquiry with people being engaged. This would go against the citizen science as crowd-funded research which seems a lot easier to just be simply co-opted and build less actual critical skills or analytical abilities with the citizen scientists.

a challenge of course is that the big businesses and stuff co-opting this data and these ideas are able to reach tons and tons of folks. I’m scared of big groups so i tend to shy away from them, but i wonder if there are non-shitty ways to engage with large hordes of people just as well.


because i keep getting invited to various events labelling themselves with some cs whatever.
so it’s good to be prepared and grounded enough to say, sorry, i am not interested.


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DIYBio - was burned and declared dead at Biofabbing. Why again?
DITO - was branded by institutions and sadly reminds me of intransparent and ‘money goes to money‘ european funding policy - of course thats not your fault Bruno.
Citizen Science always had a top-down crowdsourcing connotation, nothing new here.
Biohacking – is still quite sexy… although heavily used by cyborgs, transhumanists and self-optimizing quacks (try a google search!!)

What can we learn from philosophizing about these terms, labels and brands? I think there is a lot to learn about how our modern world works…
It is very important to agree about what these terms mean – at least within the group that is using them. Not just names, but all the other questionable words that we use for this incredibly complex activity called communication: Who is the ‘citizen’ and what does ‘science’ mean anyway? What does ‘openness’ mean? What is a ‘grassroots movement’? I’m not calling for fixed definitions, but rather for a flexible consensus that allows us to talk about this stuff…

And whenever you need a break from all the discussions: just DO your thing!!


I mean at least the CS ambitions are one try to open old boundaries of academia.
Okay, ECSA is actually dominated by academic institutions, but we have the chance to form the culture we need to collaborate adequate with academia. Within ECSA or as a CivilSocietyOrganisation(s) counterpart.
I would support @raronoff to join ECSA or influence “Geschäftsstelle Citizen Science” to represent their interests, at least. Because ECSA is a “Verein”- association every member has a vote. When we would describe ECSA as the biggest, open, european plattform to discuss CS I don’t see a reason to leave this dominated by academia!
@lu_cyP “Cost-benefit analysis to have impact” doesn’t seem to be an evaluation for a CS project from ECSA, but more for political argumentation. I mean the devil is in detail, and good CS programms as they are done are not cheap, at least says most of the different acteurs in participatory research projects, I listened to. (right?)
For evaluation ten principles of CS (by ECSA) mentions:
"Citizen science is a flexible concept which can be adapted within diverse situations and disciplines […]

  1. […] Citizen may act as contributors, collaborators, or as project leader and have a meaningful role in the project.
  2. […]
  3. [9] Citizen Science programmes are evaluated for their scientific output, data quality, participant experience and wider societal or policy impact.

In my eyes DITO’S is just one research project where they discover the potential of DIY culture in CS with a part of the DIY community, which also is part of ECSA, by the way… . YES this looks like occuping DIY, as usual.
But I believe this is an attemped to invitate the DIY community to join. :wink:

CS is just a label, but having access to academic infrastructure (among others money) and forming a new culture to me, still seems to be a greate chance; YES, Philip Marowski!, also for participatory democracy.

HI @dusjagr Only the title reveals how a fair movement has been containated. Before let me show you s screenshoot of my comment, when people from ECSA invited me to contribute on my vision on Open Science. But my thoughts seems not fit with their orientation. 33

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  • The word Citizen is problematic : it is related to what? citizenship or the fact to leave somewhere? The understanding of citizen is not the same in Cameroon and Western countries. So community science is most relevant to my context.

  • Citizen science is just an impression given to citizen that they are involved in the process: promoted as democratisation of science through participation of citizen in science, in the alignment with the so-called : participatory democracy. Because citizen can participate, but the final decision remains to the elite.

  • Citizen science is exploitation of people by scientists: many experience of citizen science I heared seems like, use citizen as a data collectors. So they can do “le travail de fourmi” that scientist can not do or don’t have time to do. Citizens can be everywhere at the same time.

  • Citizen science is elitist. It is amazing to see that only people from academia are talking about it. Is it a new way scientific brand, amplified to get more inspirations and fundings?
  • The good or the bad face of citizen science depend only of the promoters of the project. Some are using openness and community/volunteers for the Common good and others exploiting them for capitalist matter as digital labour.

So even if some people disagree with the authors, in terms of terminology or some concepts …The question on the title should not be one, for me It is an evidence that their is a big business behind citizen science, profitable only to politicians, researchers, businessman…but not citizens themselves


Chemically pure citizen science burnt to ashes in France :



One way, or another, they’re gonna get ya, getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha. One way, or another…”


Oh, and thanks for moving the discussion from f***book to here so us others can also pitch in