Citizen Science as Key Components for Identifying Regulatory Gaps: Lessons from Love Canal, Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon & Other Man-Made Disasters

Citizen Science
Oral Presentation

Prepared by E. Geltman
CUNY School of Public Health, CUNY School of Public Health, 55 West 125th St, Room 524, New York, NY, 10027, United States

Contact Information:; 202-320-4520


In the past few years, a robust debate erupted within the scientific community as to the appropriate role of citizens in gathering and presenting scientific data for use in policy development. Most modern citizen science projects are designed by scientists and ask citizens to take part in gathering data using protocols established by the scientists. Citizen participation is used as a means to expand the number of subjects or samples while at the same time saving costs. While this model of citizen science is relatively new, the concept of citizenry gathering data to present to government and academic scientists because of health and other concerns in order to influence policy is not new. For example, in 1979 the Love Canal Homeowners Association (LCHA) embarked on a study to present evidence of health concerns due to improper disposal of hazardous waste in their neighborhood. This study examines historical health studies conducted by citizen groups to present to government in order to identify regulatory gaps. The study compares the data gathered by citizens to the studies designed by experts in a variety of emergency settings including Love Canal, Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon. The study concludes that while citizens groups may have an inherent bias in gathering data, scientific bias also presented challenges from experts in ultimate study designs. In certain events such as the LCHA study in response to Love Canal, the citizen science was closer to real environmental health concerns than the study developed by the experts. The paper concludes by putting citizen science in a new context.