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SPECIAL ISSUE: Disaster, Infrastructure and Participatory Knowledge

Fukushima by Pascal via Flickr

Special Issue Call for Papers on Disaster, Infrastructure, and Participatory Knowledge

Citizen Science: Theory & Practice

Issue editors: Shannon Dosemagen (Open Environmental Data Project), Scott Frickel (Sociology, Brown University), Aya Kimura (Sociology, University of Hawai`i-Manoa), and Alison Parker (Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)

Image: Fukushima by Pascal. Public domain on Flickr.

Issue overview | Article types | Deadlines | Logistics and fees

Issue overview

The COVID pandemic and subsequent citizen and community science responses around the world are typical of how today’s disasters[1] spur citizen and community science into action. Disasters tend to be seen as acute and geographically specific, but as the pandemic illustrates, they can also be slow-moving and geographically dispersed. Disasters also tend to accelerate, reinforce and deepen social vulnerabilities and can reveal how social institutions and socio-technical infrastructure amplify social and environmental inequality. For example, the COVID pandemic is exposing how the precarity of health care institutions and the fragility of medical technology supply chains can create new disparities in health conditions and access to health care. It is also exposing insufficient and disparate government-driven data collection about health. This special issue will focus on how infrastructure – physical, social and digital – mediates citizen and community science responses to all types of disaster.

Broadly speaking, infrastructures are sociotechnical systems that constitute the built physical, social, and virtual/digital environments we all inhabit. Examples include highways, algorithms, and COVID-19 testing stations and procedures. People, but more often large institutions like governments, militaries, and corporations, design and build infrastructure, and infrastructure, in turn, organizes modern society and can give value to (or devalue) human life. Infrastructure also conditions disasters and disasters’ social and environmental impacts, including citizen and community science.  

There are many empirical cases of citizen and community science that start in response to disasters, but there is a dearth of analyses on its interaction with socio-technical infrastructures. Yet infrastructure shapes how citizen and community science unfolds over longer periods of disaster recovery. It influences whether citizen and community science translates participatory knowledge into meaningful and lasting institutional changes. Infrastructure also conditions citizen and community science as it competes with, or compliments, government-based data collection initiatives which are usually more regularized and universal. This special issue aims to address these and other knowledge gaps. We seek empirical and theoretical studies that juxtapose and investigate how the mundane and everyday ordering work of infrastructure mediates community and citizen science responses amid the chaotic disorder of disaster.

Pertinent questions that probe the mediating effects of infrastructure on participatory knowledge include:

  • How does a disaster-oriented citizen and community science transition to address not only the data needs prompted by the recent disaster but also historic and long-standing inequality and injustice?
  • What are the ways that disaster citizen and community science collaborates with social movements and advocacy groups so that systemic issues are addressed?
  • How do new initiatives, formed in response to a crisis, interact with long-standing programs, both community- and institutionally-driven?
  • What is the impact of disaster-oriented citizen and community science on the long-term social, technical, or physical infrastructure of a region or community?
  • What can we learn from citizen and community science initiated in crisis situations that could be applied to addressing inequality and infrastructure changes in the COVID-19 response?
  • What is the best structure for long-term citizen and community science so it is most useful in crises or part of disaster preparedness plans?

Article types

In this special issue, we seek a range of papers including research papers (inclusive of those describing how research has been modeled in practice), review and synthesis papers, case studies, essays, and method papers as described by Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. Although the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS, as the home discipline of a few of the guest editors) has influenced the conceptualization of this proposal, the special collection seeks papers from a broad array of researchers, practitioners and disciplines beyond both STS and citizen science, including (but not limited to) science and technology studies, disaster research and critical disaster studies, public health, and research on humanitarian relief and refugees. Please note, the editors will likely ask authors of selected abstracts to review another paper in this special collection.


We plan to release the special collection in two phases, an initial phase for a limited number of early submissions in the first half of 2021 and a final phase with submissions through the rest of 2021. To be considered for the initial release, please send abstracts to Shannon Dosemagen ( by August 16, 2020. The final submission of invited papers will be due January 31, 2021.

Abstracts for the second phase will be due by October 18, 2020. Editors will issue invitations for full paper submissions by November 15, 2020. Submission of invited papers will be due by May 16, 2021.

Abstract DeadlineNotificationPaper Draft DueRelease
August 16, 2020August 30, 2020January 31, 2021Summer 2021
October 18, 2020November 15, 2020May 16, 2021Second half of 2021

Logistics and fees

All abstracts (due 16 Aug 2020 for phase one, 18 Oct 2020 for phase two) should be submitted to Shannon Dosemagen by email: (

All invited manuscripts (due 31 January 2021 for phase one, 16 May 2021 for phase two) should go directly into the journal management system for Citizen Science: Theory and Practice.

Please review in advance the journal’s scope, author guidelines, and information on publication fees (including options for requesting a fee waiver) at

With questions about this special issue, contact Shannon Dosemagen,

[1] The editors recognize the multivalent use of the term disaster and other related terms (crisis, rapid (or slow) response event).

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