Workshop Report. Learning from Citizen Science after Fukushima: Probing the Role and Potential of Citizen Science in Nuclear Science and Technology Governance in Japan and Belgium

Michiel Van Oudheusden, Joke Kenens, Go Yoshizawa, Nozomi Mizushima

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    Citizen science is a form of science developed and enacted by citizens, with citizen volunteers collecting or analyzing various kinds of data. Following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster (11 March 2011), citizen science has demonstrably contributed to filling information gaps, as citizens in the affected areas monitor radioactivity in the environment and communicate about environmental risks. By developing new, innovative ways of assessing risks using their own technologies (e.g. self-assembled Geiger counters), citizen scientists highlight discrepancies between expert and lay appreciations of risk, initiate contextual learning about disasters, and assist in post-disaster recovery. In these processes, they voice ardent criticism of nuclear safety authorities (governmental agencies, oversight bodies, regulators) and nuclear power plant operators, as these institutes are seen to deliberately spread biased information to sustain an illusion of safety. Citizen science thus challenges conventional approaches to nuclear safety management, opting instead for inclusive governance, defined as the opening of knowledge and knowledge making to all members of society. Against this backdrop, a research team of Belgian and Japanese social scientists organized a stakeholder workshop on 27 February 2019 in Brussels for Belgian and European radiological protection researchers, members of safety authorities, civil society representatives, and policy makers. The workshop aim was to explore with these stakeholders opportunities to integrate citizen science concepts and approaches in the governance of nuclear incidents/accidents in emergency preparedness, response and post-disaster recovery. It built on findings from the team’s two-year (2017-2019) social science research project After and Beyond Fukushima: Probing the Role and Potential of Citizen Science in Nuclear Science and Technology Governance in Japan and Belgium, funded by the Research Fund - Flanders (FWO) and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS); and was motivated by a concern shared by scientists, governments, regulatory bodies, and citizens to heed lessons from the Fukushima disaster and sustain a more fruitful dialogue between all concerned actors. A concise overview of the project aims, methods, and findings can be found in Appendix A of this report.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherSCK CEN
    Number of pages12
    StatePublished - 1 May 2019

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