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Annual Workshop 2017: Workshop on Pollution, Environmental Justice, and Citizen Science

3-4 May 2017, University of Warwick, Arden Conference Centre

We invite participation in a workshop on the theme of Pollution, Environmental Justice, and Citizen Science, held on 3-4 May 2017, at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, UK.

Citizen science has long been a key means of seeking environmental justice, by bridging the divide between formal expertise and the public. The availability of new digital technologies, Big Data and the Internet has meant community involvement in pollution monitoring has become an increasingly widespread phenomenon.

However, the context of expertise and the environment is rapidly changing, with new vulnerabilities emerging. We live in a world of post-truth politics, ‘alternative facts’, and a new wave of climate change denial. The inauguration of Donald Trump in the USA and the shock Brexit result in the UK has created a threatening political climate for experts of all kinds. Just as the value of expertise has been questioned by a new political elite, so too are fresh environmental vulnerabilities emerging at both the global and local levels.

What role does citizen science play in this uncertain landscape? What can we learn from the successes and failures of citizen science campaigns, and the involvement of the public in environmental decision-making, in overcoming these challenges?

This two-day workshop will bring together international researchers working at the intersection of pollution, environmental justice, and citizen science, from across different regions, disciplines, and scales. Researchers will discuss the possibilities as well as challenges of engaging with new technologies and strategies for environmental justice and citizen science.

We will conclude our discussions with a public-facing “ideation” workshop, inviting participation from community organizations, NGOs, members of the public, and data scientists. This collaborative workshop will inform our Toxic Expertise project plans to create an international public resource, with accessible information and tools for understanding, monitoring, and reporting toxic pollutants and their health impacts.

We welcome scholars from a broad range of disciplines and career stages, as well as environmental justice activists who are interested in - or actively use - citizen science. This session draws attention to the recent changes in the value of expertise, as well as long-standing environmental justice challenges and victories.

Confirmed speakers include: Professor Phil Brown (Northeastern University); Dr Gwen Ottinger (Drexel University); Dr Jennifer Gabrys (Goldsmiths University); Professor Barbara Allen (Virginia Tech Washington); Dr. Peter C Little (Rhode Island College); Dr Sam Geall (University of Sussex); and Dr João Porto de Albuquerque (University of Warwick).

Please contact to register interest in attending this workshop.

Hosted by the ERC-funded project Toxic Expertise and the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account at the University of Warwick, Coventry.

Past Events

Thursday November 3rd 2016:

Toxic Expertise: Environment, Economy, Politics

At our first public engagement event we discusses the following questions: what value does 'expertise' still have in our society? How is expertise used, manipulated or ignored for political, social and environmental reasons? Has expertise itself become ‘toxic’?

A full write up of the event which inluded presentations from Mary Creagh MP, Neena Gill MEP, Dr Erik Van Sebille, Dr Frank Kelly, David Powell (New Economics Foundation) and Ruth Bergan (Trade Justice Movement) can be accessed here.

Mary Creagh MP at the Toxic Expertise event

(Photo Credit: Angeliki Balayannis, attendee)

This even was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council ‘Impact Acceleration Account’ and the ERC Starting Grant 'Toxic Expertise' - Grant Agreement No. 639583

Thursday 19 May 2016:

'Pollution, Health & Global Governance': Roundtable Discussion and Film Screening of 'Warriors of Quigang'

Friday 20th May 2016:

Annual Toxic Expertise Workshop: 'Environment & Expertise'

Speakers included: Barbara Allen (Virgina Tech Washington DC Campus); Scott Frickel (Brown University) Anna Lora-Wainwright (University of Oxford); Mao Da (the co-founder of two Chinese ENGOs, Independence and Justice for Sustainability, Beijing); Gordon Walker (Lancaster University); and Sujatha Raman (University of Nottingham).

This one-day workshop provided a platform to discuss key issues surrounding the competing claims of expertise, agency and environmental knowledge. We explored debates about expertise in relation to pollution and health, environmental justice, public participation, and social movements, drawing on examples in the United States, China, and Europe. Expertise exists in all societies, and what it means to be an expert has been challenged, interrogated and unpicked by scholars from a variety of disciplines. Despite key insights by Bruno Latour, Brian Wynne and many others, there remain many questions surrounding expertise and the environment that are yet to be answered. In an era where we are increasingly facing ‘wicked’ environmental problems (Rittel 1973), it is more important than ever to understand whose expertise is valued and which information is discarded. Whether concerning the impacts of environmental disasters, or the slower brutality of climate change, competing claims are often made, reinforced, unmade and hidden from public and policy view.

  • What is meant by expertise?
  • Who can lay claim to expert knowledge?
  • Which knowledge is excluded and what expertise is hidden?
  • What makes us experts?

The workshop facilitated interdisciplinary and exploratory conversations and collaborative knowledge exchange.

Project Launch: on 4 November, we celebrated the launch of our project at the University of Warwick, showcasing our project website and the first issue of our e-magazine Toxic News. The launch featured presentations from our project team and a lively discussion, with participation from our advisory board and from academics across the university.