For many years, the scientific community perceived quantitative knowledge as free from human biases. However, this understanding has been challenged by broadening the processes through which quantitative knowledge is generated. These more open processes provide a role for different points of view in the construction of knowledge and allow for a more inclusive approach to knowledge generation.
The field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) has been interested on the analysis and discussion of how local social conditions affect the production of scientific knowledge. For STS, scientific knowledge is not understood as sterilized or bias-free, but as the result of social processes. Different types of knowledge and expertise are acknowledged as necessary to build tools, such as environmental quantitative indicators. This inclusive approach allows for the development of more objective tools. \\Objectivity therefore becomes not a utopian “bias-free” product, but the result of incorporating different biases and perspectives.
STS can help produce social inclusive environmental indicators by linking the different sectors involved in the creation of these tools. By broadening the discussion to include how different understandings can exist around the same issues, scientists can build more balanced metrics. Critical stakeholders to include in developing measures are local communities that are being measured; organisations in charge of building databases; and policymakers who will use these tools to improve the livelihood of their constituents. Hence, consultation becomes a crucial component of social-inclusive indicators.
STS has the capacity to connect stakeholders with different understandings and approaches around environmental issues. This holistic engagement helps to create metrics built by everyone that could be affected by those metrics. Empowering the public in this way means that problematic concepts such as sustainability can be understood by incorporating multiple perspectives, leading to more holistic definitions and solutions
Antonio Ballesteros Figueroa is a Visiting Assistant Researcher at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. He is a PhD Candidate in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Edinburgh. You can contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tonoballesteros.