Katie Woollven tells us about how she’s learning more about getting everyone DOING science research, aka Citizen Science or Public Participation in Science Research:

“I’ve been interested in Citizen Science research since I began my grad program, so I was really excited to attend the Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) conference Aug 4-5 in Portland. The speakers were great, and it was nice to see how my questions about citizen science fit with the current research in this field.

Although public participation has always been important to science throughout history and is NOT new, the field of research on citizen science IS relatively new, and is somewhat disjointed. Researchers in this field lack a common language (prime example: should we call it PPSR? or citizen science?), which makes it difficult to stay abreast of the latest research. There have been calls for a national PPSR organization, one of the conference goals was to get feedback from people in the field about what they would want that organization to do.

One of my favorite talks was from Heidi Ballard of UC Davis, who is interested in all the possible individual, programmatic, and especially community-level outcomes of PPSR projects. She asked questions about the degree and quality of participation, such as: Who participates in these projects, and in what parts of the scientific process? Whose interests are being served, and to what end? Who makes the decisions, and who has the power?

Another interesting part of Heidi’s talk was when she touched on the relative strengths of the 3 models of PPSR projects. Citizen science projects can be divided into 3 categories (see the 2009 CAISE report): contributory (generally designed by scientists, and participants collect data), collaborative (also designed by scientists, but participants may be involved in project design, data analysis, or communicating results), and co-created (designed by scientists and participants, and some participants are involved in all steps of the scientific process). I found this part fascinating, because I think learning from the strengths of all 3 models can make any program more successful. And of course, learning about different citizen science projects during the poster sessions was really exciting! Below are a few of my favorites.

PolarTREC- K-12 teachers go on a 2-6 week science research expedition in a polar region, and then share the experience with their classroom. I think this is really interesting because of the motivational aspect of kids participating in (and according to Sarah Crowley, even improving) authentic scientific research.

Port Townsend Marine Science Center Plastics Project– Volunteers sample beaches for micro-plastics around the US Salish Sea. I’ve heard a lot about this center, and the strength of their volunteer base is amazing.

Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences– I really want to visit this museum! Visitors can engage in the scientific process on the museum floor, in one case by making observations on video feed from a field station.”

Conference talks, poster abstracts, and videos

Katie Woollven is in the Marine Resource Management program, focusing on Marine Education.

ed. note – apologies for the sporadic postings these last few days. Katie Stofer has been out of town, and things weren’t quite as well set up for other lab members to start posting themselves.

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One thought on “Learning more about getting everyone DOING science

  1. The link to the Conference abstracts is a wonderful resource. Thanks.

    Also found the categories distinguishing the nature of citizen participation (contributory, collaborative, co-creative) potentially very useful.

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