Citizen Science: Monitoring in the EIA Process

“Citizen science is a process by which everyday people take an active role in scientific discovery, joining forces with researchers to answer important science questions” (MASH)

Historically, science was a task that could only be carried out by a couple of advantaged people who had that background training to carry out experiments and the multiple tests it required. What is distinct about Citizen Science (CS) is that it appeals to individuals who would not have been traditionally associated with the field of research.  It is the development of new learning communities that sidestep institutions and tradition as a means of acquiring knowledge that make it possible for individuals to have an impact in the scientific field. In the ’70s activists adopted the saying ‘Science for the People’ but it has been suggested by Silvertown (2009) that “’Science by the people’ is a more inclusive aim”. The publication in 1962 of Silent Spring by Rachel Carlson brought with it a movement which brought to the attention of the people that sciences needed to become accessible to everyone. It is important to note that at the moment, CS now includes participation in many fields such as projects on climate change, invasive species, conservation biology, ecological restoration, water quality monitoring, population ecology and monitoring (Greaves, 2013; Silvertown, 2009).

Terms

Amateurs: A person who does something (such as a sport or hobby) for pleasure and not as a job.

Volunteer: A person who does work without getting paid to do it

Protocol: A system of rules that explain the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations

Video

Why is Citizen Science accomplished?

I would recommend watching the whole video, but what is most relevant to the field of CS and its ability to attract participants emerges five minutes into the video.

Three factors that lead to better performance & personal satisfaction

  • Autonomy: Desire to be self-directed; management is good for compliance but autonomy is good for engagement.
  • Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff, because it’s fun, because you get better at it and that’s satisfying.
  • Purpose: Transcendence purpose – it makes coming to work better; it’s the way to become more talented.

A question that is brought forward in this video is pertaining to the type of individuals CS attracts. It is stated by the video that technically sophisticated highly skilled people who have jobs are the ones carrying out these tasks. But why are they willing to do so? What does CS give back to individuals as an incentive for them to carry out these tasks? According to the video the answer are straight forwards and simple: “the science shows that we want to be self-directed, make the world a little bit better”.

Tools

What tools makes participation in CS possible?

According to Silvertown (2009), it is any technology that makes it possible for information to be shared. The range for such tools is wide, starting by innovations such as the telephone to more modern ideas of Social Medias. The tools he suggest vary from “Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google maps, iPod apps, YouTube and wiki” he goes further to state that the tools can be anything that “can be used to reach and engage with a large audience”. To this list I would also add: Smart phones, GPS and open GIS soft-wares.

Limitations

It is noted that some projects such as monitoring can become very complicated. Such projects would typically attract fewer individuals. The literature also suggest that if proper protocols and standardization are put in place then, even very complicated scientific questions can be addressed. (Bonney et al, 2009). Protocols used for citizen science should be easy to perform, explainable in a clear and straightforward manner, and engaging for volunteer participants” ( Silvertown, 2009; Bonney et al, 2009).

Monitoring in Environmental Impact Assessment Process.

A movement towards a new model of industrial performance, which integrates “transcendence purpose”, leaving behind the sole aim for profit by adding a contribution to the social environment is on the go.  The Environmental Assessment Impact process should emulate what the market has started to embrace. Including citizen science in the monitoring process would do just that: it would add a second purpose to the process, revitalize it, and improve public involvement and public concern towards such questions as to whether what happens in and the quality of what is included in an EIA report.

Recommendations

  • Make data resulting from citizen science accessible ( Increasing transparency and public motivation for involvement )
  • Integration of public participation (section) in post project implementation during the monitoring phase of the EIA process.

Links pertinent to Citizen Science

What is citizen science?

Scientific American: List of projects looking for involvement.

Citizen science: Monitoring, Education and Volunteering.

Seek free knowledge (MIT free courses)

Ongoing projects

Christmas bird count-National Audubon Society in the USA –since 1900, 63 million bird observations

The British trust for ornithology -founded in 1932

National Biodiversity network– 31 million records of over 27 000 UK species of animals and plants in majority collected by amateur naturalist

References

Bonney, R., Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Kelling, S., Phillips, T., Rosenberg, K. V., & Shirk, J. (2009). Citizen science: a developing tool for expanding science knowledge and scientific literacy. BioScience, 59(11), 977-984. http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/59/11/977.full. Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

MASH(NA)Leaning is open. Toolkit Citizen Sciences. California Academy of Sciences http://alpha.projectmash.org/groups/citizen-science Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

Greaves, S (2013)Citizen Science Musings: The Rise of Citizen Science. http://citizenscientistsleague.com/2013/01/14/citizen-science-musings-the-rise-of-citizen-science/ Retrieved March 9th, 2015.

Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in ecology & evolution, 24(9), 467-471. 

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