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Public Involvement in Knowledge Generation. Citizen Science Opportunities in the Dutch Water Sector


“Although the vital importance of drinking water provision, and with this the core task of drinking water organisations, has essentially been stable for the past few decades, the challenges water companies meet, the way they operate, and certainly also the citizens they serve, have undergone significant changes (Geldof et al. 2000; Tonkens 2008). For instance, over the past few decades the water sector has become ever more technological and technocratic, among other things, due to the ever growing complexity of challenges drinking water organisations face (Geldof et al. 2000). One could argue that, as a result, water has increasingly turned into something dealt with by experts, and that in relation to this, an even bigger “gap” or “distance” between water (organisations) and citizens can be witnessed. And, indeed, according to a recent OECD (2014) assessment of Dutch water governance, including drinking water, this is especially true for the Netherlands. Despite the country’s unique history and connection with water (Borger & Ligtendag 1998), the assessment concludes that Dutch citizens are mostly ignorant of water related risks and (potential) threats to fresh water security, including water pollution. At the same time, and separate from the question whether this should be perceived as a reaction to or merely societal development in the opposite direction, a shift towards active citizenship can be witnessed. Indeed, according to various authors (Kearns 1995; Roberts 2004; Tonkens 2008), in modern society the average citizen has become more active and increasingly is eager or at least expected to participate.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and challenging manifestations of this changing citizenship – especially with regard to the present challenges and call for more combined and multidisciplinary solutions in the water domain – is the role and meaning of knowledge. Indeed, through fast evolving developments in the field of information and communication technology and the ever growing presence of the internet, nowadays citizens are able to retrieve detailed information about almost every imaginable subject at any time of the day. One of the key challenges stemming from the fact that internet can open up more and more information, lies in the development that citizens not only “consume”, but increasingly also require information, transparency, and open data, a development that not only results from, but also contributes to the growing empowerment of citizens (Borgman 2000; Pahl-Wostl 2005).”

(Citaat: Brouwer, S., Maas, T. – Public Involvement in Knowledge Generation. Citizen Science Opportunities in the Dutch Water Sector – IWA-KWR (maart2019) – ISBN: 9781789060492 (eBook) – doi: 10.2166/9781789060492 – (Open Access))

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