Political decisions have to be informed by objective facts and relevant scientific evidence. This evidence has to be of highest quality and reliability, but it also has to be credible, understandable, and acceptable at the local level of political decision making. In Switzerland, this often is the neighbourhood, the city, or the canton. Thus, direct science is needed for direct democracy, and clearly citizens can participate in it.
The active participation of citizens in producing knowledge on issues that closely affect them, such as collecting data on environmental impacts of human activities (pollution, noise, radiation, etc.), monitoring biodiversity or tracking public health issues, also deeply affects their perceived reliability of data, and impacts their actions and opinions.
Citizen Science - the involvement of the public in scientific research with projects spanning from simple data gathering to the conception of complex scientific studies - is considered by scholars and activists as a way to contribute to a well-informed democratic governance. If we focus on the role of citizens generating data that can impact issues of public debate, this defines a special class of citizen science project that can be usefully termed ‘Direct Science’. It encourages multi-stakeholder dialogues involving scientists, citizens and policy makers, and motivates citizens to collect data and use them as a basis to form evidence-based positions in the political debate.
This is particularly interesting in the Swiss Direct Democracy system, where citizens are called to cast their vote on topics for which they may need more data in order to develop an informed opinion. Hence the theme of this hackathon, Direct Science for Direct Democracy.
In the hackathon, challenges coming from the public and from academia explore how and under what conditions improving the amount and reliability of data via participatory projects of data collection or analysis can enhance and enrich the Swiss political debate on different levels of political decision-making.