Sciences Citoyennes – a short presentation | Sciences Citoyennes

Sciences Citoyennes – a short presentation

Par
mercredi 28 octobre 2015

Miniature

Sciences Citoyennes – Citizen Sciences – is a non for profit organisation, which was created in 2002 by a group of researchers from various fields of humanities and natural sciences, by students and citizens.

Our background and our objectives

Our main issue is to critically question the role of science and technology in the construction of a society and to put science into democracy so that it serves the common good.

Science and technology are major factors in how we are shaping our societies today – at the economic, social, environmental and legal levels but also in our larger understanding of values, responsibilities and meaningful action.

We are experiencing a transformation in the nature of risks, inequalities, and hazards, created by the prevailing modes of production and consumption. Free-market globalisation exacerbates these threats and entails the subjection of research and technical development to the demands of the balance sheet. In recent years a growing number of crises (Chernobyl, asbestos, contaminated blood, BSE, GMOs…) has shown the need to take account of other interests and risks than those defined by the techno-scientific industries themselves. These interests (social justice, environmental justice, protection of biodiversity, etc.) question the existing system of expertise and science and have provoked a revival of social mobilizations and numerous initiatives for the involvement of laypersons in research, expertise or vigilance. This process has led to a modest degree of opening-up of science and its institutions.

Faced with the commercialisation of knowledge and living matter (scientific research and innovation are more and more led by the market, profit and corporate interests), these mobilizations and initiatives are embarking upon a democratic development and a new social pact for responsible and collective science. Far from amounting to « a rise in irrational beliefs », a lack of information or a question of popularisation of research results, they claim that science for all must be built with everyone and in coordination with previously cheapened knowledge. (e.g. local, professional, traditional knowledge).

Acting as an engine for emancipation for several centuries, science and now techno-science, is tremendously powerful today. In order to serve the well-being of the entire humanity on our planet, this power must be driven by other motives than merely the quest for knowledge, the desire for power or the logic of profit. Hence, after the era of the « control of nature » must come the one of « control of science » : the era of citizen science.

On this ground, FSC is questioning dominant paradigms that underlay current science policies. What science for what society? What science would we need to build a socially and ecologically more just society? What science do we need for the ecological transition? What should be the mission of public research today? What innovation strategies would help populations and the planet and not big industry?

In this frame we have defined three main goals on which FSC works:

  • the development of civil society expertise and research capacities of a non profit research sector. We support the establishment of a “scientific third sector” (or “third sector of knowledge production”) that is better able to meet the growing social and ecological demands, which are neglected by the major scientific orientations whether they be defined by the state or by private industry;
  • the promotion of freedom of speech, of debate and controversy within the scientific community; support to scientific whistleblowers, and to cross-cutting approaches on major scientific issues. In sharp contrast with the fear of public intervention and with technocratic thinking, pluralism and controversy are the source not only of a better exploration of possible worlds and, therefore, of better decisions, but also of an active appropriation of scientific knowledge by the citizens.
  • the creation and the implementation of democratic mechanisms and processes that will enable citizens to have a real weigh in the scientific and technical choices.

Our action is based on an engaged approach combined with in-depth analyses, concrete propositions and advocacy.

Examples of our work in short

We have been working with peasants from small organic farms to support their work with scientists from public research laboratories in order to maintain, protect and develop locally adapted farmers’ varieties (participatory plant breeding, agroecology, organic agriculture, farmers rights). We have been investigating, with informal alliances of NGOs, European research policies (ex. the European programme for research and innovation Horizon 2020) and French research policies (national law on research and higher education). We promote the creation of programs and funding schemes supporting participatory research (e.g. in French regions, at the European level, science shops), and we question the current functioning of scientific expertise (ex. actions towards the European Food Safety Agency EFSA on transparency, conflicts of interests, and actions to protect whistleblowers notably in the fields of environment and public health). We elaborated two law proposals, the first on the protection of whistle blowers (which was voted by the French parliament in Spring 2013), the second on the use of citizen conventions as a democratic tool to inform political decisions on techno-scientific innovations with a strong societal dimension. We also organise a yearly film festival. We are co-funder of the World forum on science and democracy, a space for exchange between different actors.

For the future we intend to continue the work in these diverse fields. Furthermore, we are engaging right now into a new work on the interaction between scientific research and fundamental rights and freedoms. Potential or proven negative consequences of the accelerated development and exploitation of scientific and technological advances are exerted not only on our bodies and on nature as revealed by numerous public health and environmental scandals, but also on human rights.

Perspectives

Rethinking research and research policies: – the organisation and direction of academic research (public and private), – scientific expertise and whistle blowing, – the relation between research, democracy and the necessary ecological reorientation of public policies (- the consequences for the world arising from research and innovation are now most often structural (organization of social life), overall, ambiguous and contradictory (they solve and create problems).

Keep watching emerging technologies: , – analysis of official discourses, – usefulness, – benefits and risks, – to whom do they profit, – to which problems do they respond.

Promote alternative approaches: – “orphan” research domains that support the transition to a post carbon society (e.g. organic agriculture, renewable energies), – participatory and action research, – law proposals (ex. whistle blower protection), – support to networks of engaged scientists.

Participation in networks

FSC is member of several international and national networks. We do a lot of advocacy work through them, and we are involved in various initiatives at national, European and international levels.

In France:

CRID – Centre de recherche et d’information pour le développement

CAC – Collectif des associations citoyennes

RES – Réseau environnement santé

At European and international level:

Living knowledge – International network of science shops

ENSSER – European network of scientists for social and environmental responsibility

WFSD- World forum on science and democracy

Alter-EU – Alliance for lobbying transparency and ethics regulation

Furthermore we have been engaged in temporary informal alliances of NGO, such as the alliance on the European Research program Horizon 2020, and the one on the reform of the regulation of the European Food Safety Agency.

How we are organised:

FSC is a non-profit organisation (in France “association loi 1901) with a charitable purpose that can offer a tax deduction on memberships and donations.

The executive board is led by its honourable president Jacques Testart, a renown French biologist and a former senior researcher at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM). Jacques Testart is known as the pioneer in France of medical assisted human reproduction but also as an innovative and critical thinker on the subject of science and society and as a prolific writer. The board of almost thirty persons includes, among other members, some of the scientific whistleblowers that FSC supported in the recent years.

A permanent team of five paid staff backed occasionally by fixed term contract employees, interns and volunteers implements the programmes and the decisions of the board.

FSC has an average of 200 paying members.

Financial support:

Created on a basis of voluntary engagement, FSC, soon after its creation, has been supported by the Swiss Foundation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme. Other private funding sources include foundations such as Fondation de France, Un Monde par Tous, and membership fees and donators. In regard to public money sources, FSC receives funding from the French government, e.g. through subsidies from Ministry (Ecology, Research), a few French local governments and the European Union. So far, FSC has succeeded in maintaining a balance between public and private funding. Over the last three years, our annual budget counted between 250 000 and 270 000 €.