The crown and citizens

The world is in an acute crisis. All the citizens on this planet are now fighting against coronavirus and no one can foresee when and how the disaster comes to the end. Yet, a large number of civic tech communities have collected data on their own and launched new websites and apps to map and visualise the coronavirus situation. Japan is no exception, where such communities are trying to collaborate with the central and local governments, but the ministries, whose disclosed data are pdf or xls format in this century, have been lagging behind e-government and are not well responding to the public demand at moment.

That reminds us of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The government at the time was blamed for its slow and unresponsive management of the crisis, and the general public called for more openness and transparency in the security against unknown risks. It also reinvigorated civil society and citizen initiatives, leading citizens not only to challenge the incumbent power but also organize themselves in unprecedented ways.

Under the circumstances, it becomes much less important to say who are they and whether their activities can be called ‘citizen science’. They are not democratizing nor serving science, but simply tackling serious social issues in the face of the global catastrophe. The more (social) scientists are keen to define citizen science, the less citizens are willing to use the term and speak out for it. This is an activity by, with and for citizens, and it does not matter if it is called science as authentic scientists usually understand.


Science by, with and for citizens: rethinking ‘citizen science’ after the 2011 Fukushima disaster

Joke Kenens, Michiel Van Oudheusden, Go Yoshizawa & Ine Van Hoyweghen, Palgrave Communications 6:58.



This article illustrates how citizen-driven radiation monitoring has emerged in post-Fukushima Japan, where citizens generate their own radiation data and measurement devices to provide publics with actionable data about their environments. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in and around Fukushima Prefecture, it highlights the multifaceted character of these bottom-up, citizen-led efforts, contrasting these initiatives with the emergence of ‘citizen participatory’ science policy discourses in Japan. Recognizing the contested nature of citizenship in Japan and in the nuclear arena, the article considers how terms and definitions shape the participation of citizens and other stakeholders (local communities, public authorities, regulators, professional scientists) in science and technology in culturally and historically specific ways. It builds on these observations to open up new spaces of expertise which engage all stakeholders through social-scientific intervention.

Belgium-Japan Joint Workshop on Citizen Science

Belgium-Japan Joint Workshop: Bridging STS Research on Citizen Science between Belgium and Japan

The bilateral Japanese-Belgian research project ‘After and Beyond Fukushima: Probing the Role and Potential of Citizen Science in Nuclear Science and Technology Governance in Japan and Belgium‘ (2017-19) was led by social scientists based at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN), KU Leuven, and the universities of Osaka and SOKENDAI; and jointly funded by the Research Fund – Flanders (FWO) and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). It adopted a data-led sociological approach with the aims of garnering insight into the emergence and development of post-Fukushima citizen science, developing theoretically- and empirically-informed concepts of citizen science, improving research design and establishing promising future research venues. Following up the research project, this workshop aims to discuss different meanings of ‘citizen science’ in Japan/Asia and Belgium/Europe and understand a wide range of current citizen science(-like) activities by inviting other citizen science researchers and practitioners and expanding the scope from radiation measurement to wider scientific, environmental and social issues.

Date: 13:00-17:00, Wednesday 29 January 2020
Venue: Citizen Science Initiative Japan (CSIJ), Tokyo

  • ‘9 Years after Fukushima, has Citizen Science come of age?’
    Michiel Van Oudheusden (University of Cambridge)

There are three elements in the ‘coming of age’ of citizen science (CS) – radiological protection, citizen science and responsible research and innovation (RRI). This kind of ‘citizen sciencization’ brings a way to think about entanglement and assemblage, expresses motion and fluidity, and attends us to mutual ‘uptake’.


  • ‘CitizenScience.Asia: The first steps of building a Citizen Science community in Asia’
    Emu-Felicitas Ostermann-Myashita (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology / CitizenScience.Asia Japan Ambassador and Leadership Team Member)

After joining a German citizen science project Mückenatlas (Mosquitoatlas) in 2017-18, she became a member of CitizenScience.Asia, which is a Citizen Science community based in Asia and uniquely has a non-academic origin. Founded in May 2017, it has created a platform and organised events for Asian citizen scientists, by actively using social media to reach the public.


  • ‘Citizen science and academic community in Japan’
    Masaki Nakamura (Osaka University / Science Council of Japan)

Young Academy of Japan in the Science Council of Japan has promoted citizen science by organising a series of public symposium and publishing a special issues in an academic journal. Another academic initiative is led by the Japanese Psychological Association, by which more than 60,000 citizens are certified as ‘citizen psychologists’. Outside academia, independent scholars in humanities and social sciences have recently attracted public attention in Japan.


  • ‘Current conditions of internet-based citizen science in Japan’
    Yuko Ikkatai (Kavil-IPMU, University of Tokyo)

It is interesting to see that internet-based citizen science was initiated around the same time in the middle 2000s in Japan and Europe/United States whereas science communication came later in Japan (2005) than Europe. Recent Japanese projects, including Thundercloud Project, Finding Slugs, and Minna de Honkoku, focus on outreach and science communication by introducing official ‘cute’ mascot (yuru-kyara) and highlighting leading professional scientists.


  • ‘Rewilding citizen science: data and immobility’
    Go Yoshizawa (Oslo Metropolitan University)

‘Citizen-generated data (CGD)’ activities do not fit into democratized (shimin-kagaku) or contributory (shichizun-saiensu) citizen science. Likewise, georeferenced data, which is often collected and analysed by citizens, is less regarded as in the context of citizen science. While citizen science becomes more oriented to big data and based in online community or community of practice, we may need to be aware of more grounded activities based on ‘thick data’, such as Mothers’ Radiation Lab Fukushima (MRLF) and Making Sense of noise pollution in Plaça del Sol, which may or should not be in the name of citizen science.


  • ‘Why measure in Becquerels? Materiality of citizen’s radiation monitoring’
    Nozomi Mizushima (SOKENDAI)

The Japanese government and scientific authorities use Sv/h for monitoring and decontaminating soil by which humans have agency, whereas citizen science organisations such as Minna-no Data Site (MDS) use Bq/kg by which radioactive materials have agency. What to control and who is responsible for the ‘exposure’ are completely different between Bq and Sv measurements.


  • ‘Reconsidering citizen science in post-Fukushima Japan’
    Joke Kenens (KU Leuven / SCK-CEN)

Japan now rides along the wave of open science and responsible research and innovation (RRI), but why less attention is given to citizen science? In Japan, citizen radiation-measuring organisations often hesitate to designate themselves as citizen scientists, as ‘citizens’ connote less local but more regional or (inter)national and citizen science is supposed to be more contributory to science but less for social education and community empowerment.

Workshop on the Ethics of Molecular Robotics

Molecular robotics is an emerging discipline that aims to produce artificial molecular systems that can adapt to change in the environment, self-organize and evolve. By co-designing possible and desirable futures and co-creating the Ethical Principles, molecular roboticists in Japan have been collaborating with social scientists and stakeholders to participate in the governance of technology development in a reflexive manner. Similar experiences can also be found in the European RRI and TA activities, which highlight the integration of ethical consideration in multi-/inter- disciplinary research management and stakeholder engagement. This workshop aims to share an understanding of molecular robotics and its ethical and social implications and exchange knowledge and lessons of the governance of emerging technologies in Norway, Europe and Japan.

Date: 12:00-16:00, Wednesday 30 October 2019
Venue: Work Research Institute (AFI), OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

  • Introduction by Go Yoshizawa (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘ELSI and RRI of molecular robotics – from a scientist’s perspective’ Akihiko Konagaya (School of Computing, Tokyo Institute of Technology)
  • ‘Lessons from co-creating the Ethical Principles for Molecular Robotics’ Naoto Kawahara (Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Kyushu University Hospital)
  • ‘Responsible governance of science and technology: cases of GMO and stem cell’ Ryuma Shineha (Faculty of Arts and Literature, Seijo University)
  • ‘Current issues in patenting in Europe’ Nico Groenendijk (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘The ethics of creating cyborgs – Coping with potential ethical consequences in open ended multidisciplinary research’ Mads Dahl Gjefsen & Knut Jørgen Vie (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Experiments in interdisciplinarity: opportunities and challenges’ Erik Thorstensen & Clare Shelley-Egan (AFI, OsloMet)

Workshop on Opening Ethics Research and Research Governance

Open science and innovation comes to the fore in Horizon Europe by assimilating (or dissolving) thematic elements of RRI, but it remains unclear what is meant by ‘openness’ and how the existing ‘Science with and for Society’ (SwafS) concepts and practices (e.g. RRI, ELSI, TA) are related to such open approaches. One of the practical challenges here is that ethics research applied to medicine, environment and robotics/AI has been rather separately developed although scientific research is increasingly converging and inter-/trans- disciplinary. Another challenge is that scientific research now requires more bottom-up, networked and adaptive governance across organisational and institutional boundaries. This workshop will therefore examine the concept of openness by addressing issues on ethics research and research governance in Norway, Europe and Japan.

Date: 12:00-16:00, Friday 13 September 2019
Venue: Work Research Institute (AFI), OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

  • Introduction by Go Yoshizawa (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Local enactment of human practices: iGEM and the challenge of openness in education’ Koichi Mikami (Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University)
  • ‘Ethical and legal framework and public dialogue on expanding genome editing applications’ Jusaku Minari (Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University)
  • ‘AI and medicine: changing role and responsibilities of experts’ Arisa Ema (Institute for Future Initiatives, University of Tokyo)
  • ‘Embodied engagement: a case study of the multidisciplinary creation of a cyborg’ Knut Jørgen Vie (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Technological care: health professionals’ discourses on home technology seen through a capability approach’ Erik Thorstensen (AFI, OsloMet)
  • ‘Engaging stakeholders in biotechnology patenting; a post-normal analysis of the European patent system’ Anders Braarud Hanssen (Faculty of Technology, Art and Design, OsloMet)
  • ‘RRI and Open Science: synergies, differences and the potential for transformative change’ Mads Dahl Gjefsen & Clare Shelley-Egan (AFI, OsloMet)

EAD2019 – European Academy of Design

EAD2019 is the 13th European Academy of Design (EAD) International Conference held at Dundee, Scotland, 10-12 April 2019. As the conference title ‘Running with Scissors’ shows, the discipline of design has been evolving and changing quite rapidly in recent years.

The Interdisciplinary Design Delta, presented by Tom Inns

All the keynote lecturers, Craig Vogel, Ingrid van der Wacht and Ravi Naidoo in particular, were very enthusiastic about and proud of what they have done as entrepreneurs as well as educators. Unlike other academic conference speakers, their confident, cheerful and somewhat provocative talks were really fascinating and enjoyable.

Dundee Law
  • Aslihan Tece Bayrak ‘Games as a catalyst for design for social innovation. Unlocking legendary tools’
    A nice study on social impacts of game and game designs, with an emphasis on user attention to dystopian future worlds. Problems raised in her presentation have much in common with the PEPPER project – society is complex; public engagement is hard in activating citizens’ tacit knowledge and engaging them for action; and the target is moving that requires design for and with emergence.
  • Farnaz Nickpour ‘Design meets death. A case of critical discourse and strategic contributions’ & Marieke Sonneveld ‘Lessons from designing for end-of-life’
    These two positioning papers examine how design can contribute to end-of-life as a relatively unnoticed issue in social design, by proposing conceptual and practical shifts from conventional design approaches – which are more transdisciplinary, interventional and oriented to problem framing; from human-centred design to relation-centred design; and from self-efficiency to together-efficiency.
  • Emilia Veselova & A. Idil Gaziulusoy ‘Implications of the bioinclusive ethic on collaborative and participatory design’
    A path-breaking paper in design conference in the sense that stakeholders include natural things that are based in the idea of ‘bioinclusive ethic’ by Freya Mathews. Questions remain in terms of inter-species communication and appropriate involvement (who and how represents), but this surely resonates the recent development of object-oriented approaches in philosophy, sociology and human-computer interaction.
  • Franziska Pilling & Paul Coulton ‘Forget the singularity, its mundane artificial intelligence that should be our immediate concern’
    It is curious to see that the session for ‘artificial realities’ and that for ‘co-designing with nature’ address somewhat similar concerns and concepts but not many attendees were well aware of such interdisciplinary intersections. This paper clearly refers to the idea of object-oriented ontology and depicts the whole picture of flat interactions between humans and non-humans.
  • Matthew Pilling, Daniel Richards, Nick Dunn & Allan Rennie ‘Social design fiction. New methods for the design of emerging technology’
    Yes, designing future society becomes more important but more difficult than the design of emerging technology. With the aphorism from Black Mirror ‘our technologies mirror our society’ in mind, they tried to engage more general public in visioning our desirable futures (cf. Strange Telemetry) when catching visitors at Bluedot (music fes) and Electromagnetic Field (camp fes). More diverse engagement might be possible in such unusual locations but interactions and deliberations on ethical, cultural and political implications of emerging technologies at a deeper level would be more challenging.

Dundee Dice Walk, organised by Paul Hardman, is a way of moving through the city in a random but conscious way. This early-morning walk gave me a great opportunity not only to rediscover the relationship between the city and myself but also to redefine what and how we can do under the names of ‘design’ and ‘academic conference’.

Dices at Dundee Dice Walk

At the end of the day, the first attendance at a design conference was really inspirational, intriguing and informative. Mapping what’s going on now in design research leads me to believe that design researchers have also been struggling to frame complex social problems and risk issues, implement transdisciplinary collaborations, transcend human-centred approaches, and find a hope in the ever-worsening planet.

The Dundee Penguins