The project “TechnoCitizenScience”, which was completed in 2017, investigated special forms of citizen science and innovation, namely those in which citizens actively participate in the field of technological sciences. Since this form of citizen science could become particularly relevant in our technology-driven society and could have an impact on the research and innovation system, it appeared to be an extremely suitable research topic. Therefore, the potential that citizen science in technological sciences – or TechnoCitizenScience – may have in Germany was assessed in a theory-based and methodically controlled way within the scope of the project. A special focus was put on both engineering and life sciences as citizen science.
While project members of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) considered citizen science efforts in the field of engineering sciences (e.g. the so-called “maker movement” and “fab labs”), ITAS carried out the sub-project “CitizenBioScience – Bioscience in do-it-yourself mode” which focused on TechnoCitizenScience in the life sciences. Most attention was given to the activities of the DIYbio and biohacking movement that has emerged in recent years.
A primary objective of the study was to identify opportunities and challenges as well as possible effects on research, development, and the economy and to analyze the political aspects of the topic. It was also necessary to investigate whether citizen science in its current form meets or will be able to meet the often high expectations expressed in public and scientific-political discourse. The following research questions were the starting point for the study:
- Which forms of TechnoCitizenScience can be observed nationally and internationally?
- What are the potentials and challenges of TCS in the life sciences for research and innovation, but also for politics and society?
- How is citizen participation in different contexts of TCS actually defined, what is its scope, and does it meet the expectations of civil society and politics?
- What are the (social and technical) prerequisites for professional technological sciences and TCS to become mutually compatible?
- Which development paths of TCS appear plausible in the medium term and enable the full potential of TCS to be developed? Which scientific-political options result from this?
Five empirical work packages were carried out in the project to find answers to these questions: a literature study, ethnographic field studies on exemplary TCS projects, the creation of a typology of different forms of participation in TCS contexts, expert interviews on the social and technical requirements of TCS, and a stakeholder workshop on the status quo and the perspectives of TCS. In the course of the ethnographic field studies, ITAS carried out participant observations in some of the new DIYbio laboratories emerging in the German citizen science movement. These were complemented by guided interviews with representatives of the German(-speaking) and international DIYbio/biohacking movement. In addition, ITAS organized the concluding stakeholder workshop at the “Open Innovation Space” in Berlin, which also covered the work areas of TUM in the project.