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Presentation at 2022 European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) conference

Katerina Zourou and Stefania Oikonomou will present their work on “Citizen science for environmental and health issues in conflict zones” at the ECSA 2022 conference in October 2022.


Air quality data and monitoring is among the oldest and most popular forms of citizen science (Schäfer et al., 2020). Serving in many environmental justice projects, air quality citizen science projects enhance the role of citizens in decision making to consider future health and environmental harms, including for low-income citizens or citizens in developing countries.

Case studies in several locations (O’rourke, & Macey, 2003; Ottinger, 2010; Schlosberg & Collins, 2014; Mahajan, Chung, Martinez, Olaya, Helbing, & Chen, 2022) demonstrate the complexities of decision making based on citizen-driven air quality data.

The decision-making mechanism becomes more complex in conflict zones. Much more than the “unwillingness or inability to deal with uncertainty” in dealing with research and information challenges from citizen-led data (ECSA 2022 conference call), roles of various actors, both on the ground and connected remotely through remote sensing and open source data collection, merit special attention. Therefore, the aim of this presentation is twofold: first, it is to map citizen science projects in conflict zones by taking the Ukrainian war as case study. Collection of examples is ongoing (Zourou, 2022). Second, to discuss opportunities and threats in civil society-citizen cooperation in environmental and health data gathering and analysis in situations of armed conflicts. The situation puts health and environmental conservation organisations in a difficult position, given that “when collaborating with de facto power brokers to carry out their activities, [this] could lead to accusations of partisanship” (Schulte to Bühne, H., Weir, D.  2022). In this context, the intermingling between environmental and health issues in conflict zones and planetary support (through remote sensing, open data and digitally supported crowd initiatives) sheds light into the role of citizen science and other forms of citizen engagement for action taking by the generations to come.

Indicative bibliography 

Mahajan, S., Chung, M. K., Martinez, J., Olaya, Y., Helbing, D., & Chen, L. J. (2022). Translating citizen-generated air quality data into evidence for shaping policy. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9(1), 1-18.

O’rourke, D., & Macey, G. P. (2003). Community environmental policing: Assessing new strategies of public participation in environmental regulation. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 22(3), 383-414.

Ottinger, G. (2010). Buckets of resistance: Standards and the effectiveness of citizen science. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 35(2), 244-270.

Schaefer, T., Kieslinger, B., & Fabian, C. M. (2020). Citizen-based air quality monitoring: the impact on individual citizen scientists and how to leverage the benefits to affect whole regions. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 5(1).

Schlosberg, D., & Collins, L. B. (2014). From environmental to climate justice: climate change and the discourse of environmental justice. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(3), 359-374.

Schulte to Bühne, H., Weir, D.  2022. Do mention the war: Why conservation NGOs must speak out on biodiversity and conflicts. Conflict and Environment Observatory, April 11, 2022 https://ceobs.org/do-mention-the-war-why-conservation-ngos-must-speak-out-on-biodiversity-and-conflicts/

Weir, D., McQuillan, D. & Francis, R.A. Civilian science: the potential of participatory environmental monitoring in areas affected by armed conflicts. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 191, Article number: 618 (2019) https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-019-7773-9

Zourou, K. 2022. Natural and cultural heritage threats and role of digital action inside and outside universities. Webinar scheduled for May 2022.