Citizen social science - active citizenship versus data commodification

Editors: Professor Josep Perelló (OpenSystems Research Group, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain), Dr Katja Mayer (University of  Vienna, Austria), Dr Martina Franzen (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, KWI Essen, Germany), Dr Valeria Arza (Research Center for Transformation CENIT, National University of San Martin UNSAM, Argentina), Dr Alexandra Albert (Extreme Citizen Science Research Group, University College London, UK).

There is a boom in initiatives calling for citizen involvement in research under the recent label of Citizen Science. Citizen Science is on the one hand a new instrument to integrate citizens into scientific knowledge production with the help of digital infrastructures. On the other hand, there is a Citizen Science movement aimed at democratizing science. While numerous Citizen Science projects have been installed in various disciplines in recent years, some of them with great success, the social sciences are lagging behind. Within what has been termed as Citizen Social Science, this article collection therefore not only explores the possibilities for Citizen Science in the social sciences, but also subjects the Citizen Science phenomenon to a social science analysis.

Digital technologies are increasingly facilitating the collective generation of data, particularly in terms of the mushrooming of crowd-sourced data initiatives in a variety of fields across the sciences, politics, and industry. Citizen Science has been mostly promoted as a method to increase the scale and efficiency of data collection in a widespread variety of disciplines; in scientific research, particularly in environmental science, astronomy, biology, and in the social sciences, particularly in political science, market research, sociology of social movements and urban planning. However, most initiatives working with citizen scientists include them only in certain steps of the research process, rather than more systematically and from the outset. In many projects, participants are assigned a passive role by design; they are mainly confined to data gathering, and are typically excluded from research design, analysis, and interpretation. Despite the vast potential of active citizenship for Citizen Social Science: active citizenship vs. data commodification evidence based "good governance", participants are frequently restricted to act as mere sensors, or data producers, rather than data owners or advocates in their own right. Moreover, it is widely debated how sustainable the involvement of citizens via digital platforms can be, particularly in terms of renewing or maintaining citizen enthusiasm and motivation to participate.

This collection explores the drivers and barriers to the systemic participation of citizens in all research phases to produce socially robust knowledge outcomes, whilst also opening up the debate on the possibilities of blending, overlapping or confronting the different participatory methodologies already present in the field of social sciences, and the current approaches in citizen science projects.

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