Democratizing Science Movements

A New Framework for Mobilization and Contestation

The current article interrogated the phenomenon of ‘democratizing' science via social movements. Democratizing science movements were defined as integrating perspectives from lay people with science knowledge in the political decision-making process. The author focused on the anti-dam movement (ADM) in Brazil and the environmental breast cancer movement (EBCM) in the United States. Research involved conducting interviews with stakeholders, 78 in Brazil and 50 in the United States, such as organization representatives, science experts, movement leaders, and grassroots activists, engaging in ethnographic observation and reviewing relevant documents.

Key Findings:

  • Collaboration between lay people and scientific experts was a central component of the democratization of science movement. Lay-expert collaboration helped to give lay people access to the production of knowledge alongside experts.
  • The ADM and EBCM worked in partnership with experts and researchers in the beginning stages of action related to their work with dams and breast cancer, respectively.
  • For the ADM and EBCM, protesting conditions and raising awareness about the existing knowledge on dams and breast cancer led to modification of scientific knowledge and helped impact policy and discussion in both areas.
  • The ADM and EBCM came to understand that collaboration between lay people and experts required sustained commitment of time and energy in order to effectively contribute to the democratization of science.