Rebecca Lave (Indiana University)
Free Range Science: Constructing environmental science outside the academy
Claims to scientific expertise have been a catalyst of conflict and a source of power for centuries as scientists draw and redraw the boundaries of science to bolster their authority. The increasing distrust of science characteristic of the last half century, however, has led to new forms of contestation of scientific authority. Lay people, traditionally seen as the consumers of scientific applications, have become increasingly credible producers of scientific knowledge, both basic and applied. In the U.S., this reversal of the typical flow of scientific data, methods, and knowledge claims takes multiple forms, ranging from the relatively constrained practices of "citizen science" (where volunteers humbly collect long-term ecological data for scientists to analyze), to the active contestation of scientific authority among "citizen scientists," who use the data they collect to make their own knowledge claims. This paper brings theoretical work on scientific expertise (from STS authors including Brown, Collins & Evans, Irwin, Jasanoff, and Wynne) to bear on empirical material on the practice of citizen scientists in the U.S. collected by Geographers. I argue that the increasing impact of citizen scientists may presage a fundamental shift in the construction of scientific expertise, and of the political economy of environmental expertise more broadly.