Environmental controversies are often about knowledge and expertise as much as they are about politics, rights and life chances. The reason is that the evidence produced by the different groups involved is often part of the controversy, with disputes over what is known and not known, by whom, and with what degree of accuracy being a source of tension rather than consensus.
Community groups are responding to these challenges through new forms of citizen science in which they collect new data that can be used to contest decisions that affect their lives and communities. In this project, we will be working with one such group to monitor air quality and to improve their local environment. This will involve supporting, and reporting on, their work to deploy monitoring equipment and build community networks as well as examining how these efforts are received by others.
The project contributes to the wider WISERD civil society programme by examining how the traditional forms of injustice – access to rights and resources, for example – are entwined with questions of knowledge and expertise. In this way, citizen science has the potential to be more than an epistemic activity; it is also, perhaps, a site of civil repair and civic gain.