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What's in a name? Unpacking “participatory” environmental monitoring

Nerea Turreira-García, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Jens F. Lund, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Pablo Domínguez, Laboratoire de Géographie de l'Environnement (GEODE), UMR 5602 CNRS - Université Toulouse 2, France; Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain; Departament d'Antropologia Social i Cultural, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
Elena Carrillo-Anglés, Departament d'Antropologia Social i Cultural, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
Mathias C. Brummer, Center for Agro-Food Economy and Development, Castelldefels, Barcelona, Spain; University of Bayreuth, Germany
Priya Duenn, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain
Victoria Reyes-García, Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain; Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-10144-230224

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Abstract

While the number of projects that claim to conduct participatory environmental monitoring (PEM) is growing, “participation” continues to be translated into very different practices. We performed a systematic review of PEM projects reported in peer-reviewed journals (n = 146) to explore the main ways in which participation is operationalized and whose interests it serves. We found that local people were mainly involved in PEM projects through data collection, while professionals dominated during the ideation and design of the projects, as well as during the evaluation and use of data. Data collected through PEM was mainly used by professionals and researchers (56% of the cases that provided information on this topic), and less often used by local communities (20%). Our findings indicate that in most PEM projects published in scientific journals, participation is mostly functional in the sense that local peoples’ involvement is framed so that they contribute to the gathering of information in a cost-effective way, while their potential interests in shaping the purpose and format of the project and use of the data appear overlooked. Overall, the actual practice of most PEM projects analyzed appears to foster participation in a very limited sense of the word. Although some studies document strong empowerment effects of PEM programs, many studies are superficial in their documentation of this aspect or they do not involve local people beyond collecting data.

Key words

citizen science; community-based; empowerment; locally based; patrolling

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087