Making effective participatory environmental health science through collaborative data analysis
in Toxic truths

In the environmental justice arena, citizen science encompasses a broad array of practices, from local residents asking the questions driving scientific inquiry to participating in data collection. This chapter argues that collecting data should not be the end of the participatory process as data does not speak for, or represent, communities without a further step: collaborative analysis. Analyzing data with communities satisfies several objectives, as demonstrated in a case study of two industrial towns in France. First, residents are empowered as collaborators in making meaning from abstract numbers. Grounding statistics in local experience deeply contextualizes the data, making it both socially robust and empirically stronger. Second, through inclusive analysis, residents who may have been unable to adequately conceptualize their experience such that it could be understood by policymakers have a venue to collectively render their lived knowledge intelligible. Finally, the linking of quantitative to qualitative data can increase the relevance and effectiveness of a study to both residents and local medical professionals. In this case, citizens gained confident ownership of the science they helped create and could speak authoritatively about it. This led to local residents and elected officials more assertively using the health study to influence better environmental outcomes.

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Toxic truths

Environmental justice and citizen science in a post-truth age

Editors: Thom Davies and Alice Mah

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