Probing the potential of citizen science in the governance of nuclear accidents

    Research output


    The 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident was one of the most severe nuclear accidents in the history of nuclear energy. It pushed ordinary citizens to collect their own radiation pollution data in unprecedented ways. Aided by technological advancements, including the Internet and the development of cheaper sensors to monitor the environment, citizens used measurement devices to generate open-source data and radiation maps. The organizations that are born out of these citizen initiatives are referred to as Citizen Radiation Measuring Organizations (CRMOs). They have increased accessibility and transparency of information and data related to the accident for citizens and communities, filling knowledge and information gaps created by the inadequate disaster response of the Japanese government. CRMOs and other citizen-led initiatives have increasingly gained salience in crisis management and post-disaster recovery. The heightened attention towards these practices is evident of a participatory turn within science and technology policies since the end of the 20th century, indicating a re-evaluation and promotion of lay knowledges and public participation in science, technology and innovation. This has resulted in a growing body of scholarly work that investigates citizen participation, including citizen science. This term is broadly defined as a process in which citizens engage in scientific activities with or without the support of science professionals. Recognizing the broad diversity of citizen science initiatives, this PhD examines CRMOs as instances of grassroots (or bottom-up) citizen science, whereby citizens organize themselves independently from experts, using their own technologies and methods to produce knowledge about pressing problems such as radiation pollution. It examines the issues and questions regarding citizenship, scientific practices and science-society relations that grassroots citizen science unearths. To this end, it analyses past and present citizen science initiatives connected to nuclear accidents, including not only the Fukushima disaster, but also the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. It does so with the aims of 1) mapping the evolution of Japanese grassroots citizen science after nuclear accidents; 2) identifying the social spaces in which grassroots citizen science emerges; and 3) probing the potential of citizen science for crisis management and recovery after a nuclear accident.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Science
    Awarding Institution
    • KU Leuven
    • Van Hoyweghen, Ine, Supervisor, External person
    • Turcanu, Catrinel, Supervisor
    • Van Oudheusden, Michiel, Supervisor
    Date of Award22 Mar 2022
    StatePublished - 22 Mar 2022

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