TP6: The Evidence Culture of Citizen Science

Standardization, evaluation and control of  participatory research

Prof. Dr. Sascha Dickel (Sociology of Science, University of Mainz)
Dr. Andreas Wenninger (Sociology of Science, Bayerische Research Institute for Digital Transformation)
Kevin Altmann (Bayerische Research Institute for Digital Transformation), Project Collaborator
Michael Kitzing (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz), Project Collaborator

This project investigates contemporary practices of public participation in various stages of research, often labeled “Citizen Science”. In phase 1 of our research, we explored evidence practices in specific Citizen Science projects. We asked how these projects produce scientific credibility under the conditions of public participation. Our research indicated a phenomenon whereby evidence in Citizen Science is not only negotiated at the level of projects but increasingly also on an institutional level.

In phase 2 we shift our research focus, asking: How is Citizen Science normalized? How and by whom are Citizen Science activities evaluated? How are standards controlled and enforced? We pursue a broad qualitative research approach, analyzing scientific publications, position papers and protocols, investigating technical procedures, digital tools and infrastructures, and  participating in working groups, networks, meetings, and conferences. Additionally, we plan to conduct interviews and focus groups to validate our findings. This data will enable us to reconstruct  how standards, evaluation practices and control mechanisms are established and justified (or rejected).

The project seeks to uncover the evolving transdisciplinary evidence culture in Citizen Science; Which norms, practices, technologies and lines of conflict constitute this culture? Our research aims to understand how new institutional structures address the challenges of mass inclusion of amateurs in research. One line of research focuses on the ethnography of this emerging institutional  culture; its networks, organizations and discourses. A second line of research focuses on practices of public presentation of Citizen Science and its resonance in academic science and science  policy.

By exploring how evidence practices are (re-)stabilized on a meta-level of knowledge politics, this research project contributes to a better understanding of contemporary evidence regimes in democratic knowledge societies. Our hypothesis: the more popular Citizen Science becomes and the more it destabilizes the established notion of science as an exclusive practice conducted by professionals, the more likely it is to conform to the norms of professional science.