Participatory sciences beyond science. A cross-comparison between North and South

Special report: The democracy of water territories
By Veronica Mitroi, José-Frédéric Deroubaix

This paper presents an overview of the participatory science experiments carried out in the field of water management. The overview addresses these new practices of knowledge production by considering their impact on the expertise used in water management policies. This study is based on: (a) the analysis of the French grey literature dedicated to participatory science, (b) a bibliometric investigation of the scientific literature related to participatory science, and (c) the comparison between a participatory science experiment conducted by the authors in Côte d’Ivoire and various French experiments. Through this empirical material, we show the capacity of participatory science experiments to renew the epistemology of environmental science in the field of water. This capacity is built at the interface between knowledge and policy and is dependent on the territorial context and specifically on the relationships between scientific and administrative experts and social actors. We observe a significant contrast between countries of the North and South: the former are more knowledge-production oriented, whereas the latter are more policy oriented. These dynamics are characterized and analyzed both in terms of the field of expertise production and water governance.


  • participatory science
  • participatory monitoring
  • water resources management
  • knowledge production
  • expertise
  • science/society interaction
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