Citizen-Science and the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009

Sean Whittaker (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Scotland, the law governing how the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (‘SEPA’) and other Scottish public authorities manage flood risk is enshrined in the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 (‘the Act’). The Act requires SEPA and other public authorities to provide sufficient information for the public to participate in the development of flood risk management plans and flood protection schemes. However, the Act operates under the assumption that public authorities hold all the relevant information; an assumption which is not always borne out in practice. It is here that data generated by citizen-science can fill in these information gaps.

Citizen-science is viewed by academics such as Henriksen as empowering citizens to ‘take an active role in knowledge generation’ and to improve the final decisions taken in decision-making procedures by filling in any gaps in the information held by public authorities. This is accepted by the Scottish Government, which has incorporated citizen-science in its flood risk management policy. Within the Act however, citizen-science is not equally accommodated for within the procedures used to develop flood risk management plans and flood protection schemes. Yet while this divergence may appear to inhibit the ability of citizen-scientists to submit information, when viewed holistically the Act still promotes the role of citizen-science within flood risk management in Scotland.

This article examines how data generated by citizen-science is viewed under Scotland’s flood management regime. It first explores the benefits and risk associated with incorporating citizen-science into matters such as flood risk management. The article concludes by discussing how the different procedures enshrined in the Act accommodate (or fail to accommodate) citizen-science projects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-63
Number of pages2
JournalScottish Planning and Environmental Law
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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