Following previous initiatives in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), the Joint Research Centre organized a workshop in Ispra, on the 3rd and 4th of March, dedicated to the current challenges of quality assurance in scientific production, application and advice, in a time where issues such as legitimacy seem to be increasingly in question considering established scientific models and their social roles.
The event was widely attended with participants from research and academia, policy advising and policy making, and civil society organisations engaged with Citizen and Open Science or Do It Yourself / Do It Together (DIY/DIT) scientific and technological projects. The debate ranged from the present state of trustworthiness of scientific knowledge and the contribution of Post-Normal Science enquiries to understand and deal with this paradigm shift in scientific models, to the importance of new scientific and technological practices and frameworks from within and outside established institutions to address current challenges of quality, legitimacy and others.
The first day started with keynote addresses by JRC’s Director General Vladimír Šucha, Jerome Ravetz from University of Oxford and Bruna De Marchi from University of Bergen. It continued with Conversations and Panels focused on the issues of dissemination, reproducibility, governance, accountability, and uncertainty in contexts such as Science for Policy. In the end, there was a showcase of artistic installations and performances linked to the workshop’s core debates on the challenges of scientific production, application and advice.
The second day began with the keynote addresses of Daniel Sarewitz from Arizona State University and Maja Horst from University of Copenhagen. It then moved on to Conversations and Panels dealing with quality assurances by extended peer review, emerging loci of knowledge production, and hybridisations between Science, Humanities and Arts, and finished with a debate on present and future paths for the European Commission to successfully address the discussed panorama.
“The Civic View From Above”: An Applied Example of DIY Science and Technology
We also had the opportunity to observe in situ a showcase of how science and technology can deal with quality and legitimacy challenges when developed by means other than the traditional ones, with Hagit Keysar of the Public Lab and Ben Gurion University conducting a demonstration on “DIY Aerial Photography in Conflict Areas”.
The Public Lab is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation. By democratizing inexpensive and accessible Do-It-Yourself techniques, Public Lab creates a collaborative network of practitioners who actively re-imagine the human relationship with the environment.
Hagit Keysar adopts both research and practical experiments in this context with DIY aerial photography in Palestine-Israel, and focuses on civic science to deal with human rights in land occupation and urban planning contexts. She works with communities, NGO’s and local institutions to create their own, high quality, local scale aerial photography, aiming to enhance citizenship and democratic participation in disputed territories.
Using the open source tool MapKnitter and Public Lab’s Balloon Mapping Kit (mainly composed of a reusable 170cm balloon, regular connection elements such as rubber bands or mini carabiners, a 2-liter plastic bottle, and a digital camera able to perform continuous shooting), Hagit and the multiple communities she works with are able to establish a participatory action framework that incorporates science, technology and social media. They offer support to those who look for alternative ways to challenge established values and make their citizenship and democratic claims visible and public.
Satellite and aerial imagery are indispensable testimonies in territorial discussions today, sometimes even acting as testimonies that precede and prove eyewitness account. With this specific set of open- source tools, lay communities gain some power to tell different stories when facing “official” maps, and create their own “counter-cartographies” translated into new maps and 3D models, campaign materials and dissemination videos, or even “alternative” expert testimonies. By doing this, they directly address urgent issues of quality in scientific production and advice, adding civic layers to an increasingly professionalized human rights field in charge of producing evidence later used in institutional decisions regarding land settlements or housing rights.