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New study questions some of the citizen science projects during Flint's water crisis

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A new report raises questions about the citizen science projects that emerged during the Flint Water Crisis. 

But critics charge the report’s authors have ulterior motives.

Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards and Siddhartha Roy used the help of Flint residents to uncover high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water. But in their new study, Edwards and Roy attack the work of activists and groups that raised other concerns about Flint’s water.

Roy says some activists and outside groups used citizen science projects in Flint to promote unfounded theories.

“It does raise the question of what kind of oversight exists for citizen science.  And the answer is none,” says Roy.    

He says the study shows the need for more oversight of citizen science projects.

The conflicts between the Virginia Tech researchers and the activists have grown so heated that Edwards filed a defamation suit.

William Moran is an attorney representing Flint activist Melissa Mays whom Edwards sued. He accuses the researchers of trying to litigate the suit in a scholarly journal.

“In my opinion, it is improper for academic journals to lend their pages to a litigant, suing a Flint mom for $3 million she does not have, to effectively promote his case” says Moran. “That looks like a major conflict of interest.”

The lawsuit is acknowledged in the journal.

Siddhartha Roy insists they are not using the scientific journal as a way to push the lawsuit.

“The way things transpire we were able to stay as honest and transparent as possible with the journal and ultimately they decided it was a good enough paper to publish,” says Roy. 

The study appears in the journal Citizen Science: Theory and Practice

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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