Mapping for Whom?
Communities of Color and the Citizen Science Gap
Keywords:Participatory science, racial justice, political ecology, volunteered geographic information, critical GIS
Citizen science harnesses the power of nonscientist observations, often resulting in a vast network of data. Such projects have potential to democratize science by involving the public. Yet participants are mostly white, affluent, and well-educated, participants that contribute data from their residence or places they frequent. The geography of the United States is heavily segregated along lines of race and class. Using a Census Tract-level hurdle model, we test the relationship between the locations of the rain gauges from the citizen science project Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) with continuous variables for percent non-Hispanic white and median household income. We find whiter and more affluent Census Tracts are significantly more likely to have a rain gauge. The highly localized nature of precipitation combined with the uneven geography of storm-water infrastructure make data missing from citizen science projects like CoCoRaHS of vital importance to the project’s goals. We warn that scientific knowledge created from citizen science projects may produce scientific knowledge in service of wealthy, whiter communities at the expense of both communities of color and low-income communities.
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