Civic Engagement - Citizen Science
Today we look further at Citizen Science as a civic activism tool. You can find a full list of 29 engagement tools in our online directory.
Do you have to be a scientist to take part in citizen science? The answer to that question is quite simply no you don’t.
Citizen Science is research conducted by amateurs or non-professionals in order to increase public participation in scientific research and raise citizen awareness of particular issues, often relating to the environment. Ordinary people, often without formal training, are enabled to contribute to scientific research in their spare time.
Citizen scientists usually partner with professional scientists to undertake joint work. Community or volunteer networks can help scientists to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time consuming to accomplish through other means.
How can people get involved?
When it is planned and executed well, citizen science can increase scientific knowledge, raise people’s awareness of their environment and allow like-minded people to share enthusiasm and knowledge.
The range of involvement varies from people donating idle time on their home computers for use in solving problems to people contributing small bits of data about themselves or their environments.
Citizen science may be performed by individuals, teams or networks of volunteers, really anyone who wishes to contribute to their community to increase their sense of place and belonging through active citizenship.
It can also be used by Government Departments and policy making bodies to gain valuable information from citizens.
For example, in the case of fresh water sampling Government currently relies heavily on voluntary groups like fishing clubs to undertake sampling, because the government departments simply don’t have the capacity to do as comprehensive a job as local stakeholders.
Locally, Lecale Conservation and Ulster Wildlife have been using citizen science to monitor water quality and provide information to assist with marine conservation in and around Strangford Lough.
In terms of influencing policy - decision makers, if they realise ordinary citizens are involved and engaged, are more likely to take such environmental issues more seriously.
The Great Sunflower Project started in 2008 in the USA in response to scientific studies suggesting that bee populations were in trouble. Since then people all over the country have been collecting data on pollinators in their yards, gardens, schools and parks.
Consequently the project now possesses the largest single body of information about bee pollinator service in North America and can determine where pollinator service is strong or weak compared to averages.
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