The term “citizen science” is intended to widen the network of people whose contribution to science is acknowledged. But the word “citizen” can be problematic.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing away of Master Tracker Horekhwe (Karoha) Langwane of Lone Tree in the central Kalahari, Botswana. Karoha is known to millions of people worldwide as the Kalahari San hunter who ran down the kudu in the video narrated by David Attenborough (see https://cybertracker.org/persistence-hunting-attenborough ). Karoha was also one of the first oralate trackers who used the CyberTracker software to gather data for wildlife surveys. He co-authored several scientific papers published in high-impact journals. His passing is a huge loss to indigenous trackers in the Kalahari.
11 April 2021
The heirs to a cultural history brutally interrupted by colonialism and apartheid are relearning the skills of their forebears in the red dunes of the Kgalagadi
Authors: Louis Liebenberg, /Am //Ao, Marlize Lombard, Michael Shermer, /Uase Xhukwe, Megan Biesele, Di //xao, Peter Carruthers, ≠Oma Kxao, Sven Ove Hansson, Horekhwe (Karoha) Langwane, L. Mark Elbroch, N≠aisa /Ui, Derek Keeping, Glynis Humphrey, Greg Newman, /Ui G/aq’o, Justin Steventon, Njoxlau Kashe, Robert Stevenson, Karel Benadie, Pierre du Plessis, James Minye, /Ui /Kxunta, Bettina Ludwig, ≠Oma Daqm, Marike Louw, Dam Debe, Michael Voysey
In response to recent discussion about terminology, we propose “tracking science” as a term that is more inclusive than citizen science. Our suggestion is set against a post-colonial political background and large-scale migrations, in which “citizen” is becoming an increasingly contentious term. As a diverse group of authors from several continents, our priority is to deliberate a term that is all-inclusive, so that it could be adopted by everyone who participates in science or contributes to scientific knowledge, regardless of socio-cultural background. For example, current citizen science terms used for Indigenous knowledge imply that such practitioners belong to a sub-group that is other, and therefore marginalized. Our definition for “tracking science” does not exclude Indigenous peoples and their knowledge contributions and may provide a space for those who currently participate in citizen science, but want to contribute, explore, and/or operate beyond its confinements. Our suggestion is not that of an immediate or complete replacement of terminology, but that the notion of tracking science can be used to complement the practice and discussion of citizen science where it is contextually appropriate or needed. This may provide a breathing space, not only to explore alternative terms, but also to engage in robust, inclusive discussion on what it means to do science or create scientific knowledge. In our view, tracking science serves as a metaphor that applies broadly to the scientific community—from modern theoretical physics to ancient Indigenous knowledge.
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