There’s nothing like a couple of beers to get the conversation going. Unfortunately I mixed a couple of bottles of Berliner Kindl with research and started searching twitter for Citizen Science references. I ended up “chatting”, tweeting or whatever, to @johnagallo about Citizen Science. During the conversation I foolishly agreed to add my Opinions and Perspectives to his wiki-page for the concept of Place-based Citizen Science. So here goes. All I can do at this stage is accept the opportunity and underline that my research into this area is in its early stages. I discovered Citizen Science searching for something else. I was actually looking for studies of communities as co-creators of knowledge. Citizen Science fits that idea effectively. I was also looking at ideas where communities engaged in research are not taken for granted. There is little research into the benefits of engaging communities in science (specifically Higher Education) to the community. Studies of impact tend to lean towards the outcome to the university in terms of research impact or the contributions to learning or employability to the student supporting the undertaking of the research (Stoecker 2009) (Hart 2011). The community-based participant or community group tends to be overlooked at the outcome stage, something which could be deemed unsustainable in the long term. So I’m looking to research whether Citizen Science might be a better approach to community engagement in research for universities. I work on a community engagement programme called Square Mile at De Montfort University in Leicester, England, covering a square mile area that has been identified by the local authority as having social challenges. I am interested in the idea that Citizen Science can engage a community to identify its own core issues and seek its own solutions. This would be the place in the idea of place-based citizen science. The university would act as the steward, analysing and validating the research which would be proposed and delivered by residents working with students and academics. Adopting this idea could take universities back towards their original missions of demonstrating public good in the cities where they were founded (Cunningham 2009). I am in the early stages of forming a research project that aims to study this area.
Stoecker, R, and Tyron E, eds. (2009) Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Temple University Press, p5
Hart A and Northmore S (2011) Auditing and Evaluating University–Community Engagement: Lessons from a UK Case Study, Higher Education Quarterly, p163
Cunningham P, Oosthuizen S and Taylor R, eds. (2009) Beyond the Lecture Hall: Universities and Community Engagement from the Middle Ages to the Present Day, University of Cambridge, p1