Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development

By Alan Irwin | Go to book overview

4

WITNESSES, PARTICIPANTS AND MAJOR ACCIDENT HAZARDS

To try to understand the experience of another it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it, and to re-assemble it as seen from his. For example, to understand a given choice another makes, one must face in imagination the lack of choices which may confront and deny him. . . . The world has to be dismantled and re-assembled in order to grasp, however clumsily, the experience of another. . . . The subjectivity of another does not simply constitute a different interior attitude to the same exterior facts. The constellation of facts of which he is the centre is different. 1

The previous chapter considered a series of ‘science-centred’ and reductionist accounts of environmental policy-making - noting that even within more ‘democratic’ policy modes citizens were still taken to be devoid of legitimate expertise. Instead, the wider public was seen as a passive rather than an active force - as witnesses to a series of arguments rather than effective participants. The question of how ‘legitimate’ knowledge is defined thus has important consequences for the democratic involvement of citizen groups in this crucial area of policy-making.

One immediate objection to this line of argument might be to indicate the number of steps which are currently being undertaken to ‘disseminate’ scientific information to the general public. Especially through the mass media but also through more local initiatives (of the type which will shortly be discussed in this chapter), efforts are being made to improve the public understanding of technical issues. A strong recommendation to this effect was made in the 1985 Royal Society report:

our most direct and urgent message is for the scientists - learn

-81-

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Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Science and Citizenship 9
  • 2 - Science, Citizens and Environmental Threat 37
  • 3 - Science and the Policy Process 62
  • 4 - Witnesses, Participants and Major Accident Hazards 81
  • 5 - Freeing the Voices: a Science of the People? 105
  • 6 - Building Sustainable Futures: Science Shops and Social Experiments 135
  • 7 - Science, Citizenship and Troubled Modernity 168
  • Notes 183
  • Index 196
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