Marie Curie IF - 'SENSJUS: Citizen Sensing as a source of evidence in environmental justice litigation and as a tool for environmental mediation’

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

On June 27, 2019, a landmark court decision was released in Texas, in which a judge found the petrochemical company Formosa Plastics Corporation, liable for violating the Clean Water Act because of plastic discharge into local waters. The case was brought by a civic group based in part on citizen sensed-evidence which involved volunteer observations performed over years. This practice entailing grassroots-driven environmental monitoring could be qualified as ‘Citizen Science’ and, more specifically, ‘Citizen Sensing’. The contamination could not be proved through existing data held by competent authorities since the company never filed any record of pollution with the competent authority. Rather, the monitoring and data collection was almost entirely conducted by local residents.
Cases such as the Formosa litigation are expected to increase drastically. They pose urgent research questions. Above all, the case motivates an investigation of the potential of introducing Citizen Sensing as a source of evidence in litigation over environmental wrongdoings. Furthermore, Citizen Sensing may also play a role in avoiding the court stage, as a tool to mediate the environmental conflict and to steer the responsible company to adopt an environmentally-compliant behavior.
Related research is still in its infancy. The few championing actors in the debate are located in the United States, not flanked by a parallel inquiry from the European perspective. The key objective of Anna Berti Suman’s ‘Sensing for Justice’ project is to fill this knowledge gap in order to avoid a possible scientific and legislative vacuum, and provide newly required research capacity in the European Union.
The research will be hosted by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, currently leading actor in the research on Citizen Science for environmental monitoring and reporting, in cooperation with ‘Systasis - Research Centre for Environmental Conflicts Prevention and Management’, Milan. This will allow Anna Berti Suman to play a crucial role in the enactment of measures to release Citizen Science for litigation and mediation’s potential across the EU. Berti Suman will defend her PhD thesis titled ‘Sensing the risk. In search of the factors influencing the policy uptake of citizen sensing’ on May 8th, 2020 at Tilburg University.

Layman's description

On June 27, 2019, a landmark court decision was released in Texas, in which a judge found a petrochemical company liable for violating the Clean Water Act because of plastic discharge into local waters. The case was brought by a civic group based in part on citizen sensed-evidence involving volunteer observations performed over years, which can be qualified as ‘Citizen Sensing’. The contamination could not be proved through existing data held by competent authorities since the company never filed any record of pollution. Such cases raise urgent research questions on the potential of Citizen Sensing as a source of evidence for environmental litigation but also as a tool to mediate the environmental conflict. Building on knowledge from the U.S. context, ‘SensJus’ will develop a parallel inquiry from the European perspective along these research goals. By theoretically and empirically researching experiences of Citizen Sensing use in courts and in mediation, I will address a scientific and legislative vacuum preventing a more pervasive use of Citizen Sensing in Europe. The research will be hosted by the JRC, leading actor in the research on Citizen Sensing, which will allow me to reach not only academic communities, but also policy-makers and concerned citizens.
Short titleSensing for Justice
AcronymSENSJUS
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date16/09/2015/09/22