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Ideas for a Community Science Handbook

Category: Uncategorized

By Sarah Wilkins, Thriving Earth Exchange Project Manager

What do people need to know when setting out to do community science?

–This question was raised recently at a symposium I took part in at Citizen Science Association’s 2019 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. As part of a five-person panel focused on the design and practice for community science literacy, the participants took part in a brainstorming activity for developing ideas for a community science primer. A primer is a short introductory book on a subject. In our case, the primer is intended to provide the reader with guidance on how to incorporate key principles and best practices into any community science project. Perhaps it’s better to call it a handbook.

Together in four small groups the participants were given time to work on the topics, below:

  • Outline three key components for community science
  • Outline best practices for community science projects
  • Outline three “controversial” topics (i.e. ideas that are different, not universally agreed to, or non-obvious) that could be addressed in a handbook

It was exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm for this task. The groups produced excellent high-level suggestions for people and organizations interested in supporting community science work. They also unearthed several issues, problems, concerns and challenges that the handbook might productively address.

 I invite you to weigh in with your own thoughts/suggestions/comments/contributions. What would you like to see in a community science handbook? If you’d like to be involved in creating the handbook, please reach out to [email protected] to get connected!

Here is a distilled collection of suggestions across the 5 groups. The handbook would include guidance on how to:

  • Be a good listener
  • Identify a local community leader or “champion” with community buy-in
  • Build relationships in a community and connect to diverse communities
  • Ensure accessibility for anyone who wants to participate on the project
  • Consider, respect and include diverse perspectives and knowledge systems
  • Scope and navigate projects where community leaders are vocal advocates
  • Initiate and facilitate the scoping of a project (training in facilitation aids in effectively identifying community priorities, assets, interests, challenges…)
  • Manage expectations to not over promise in terms of what can feasibly be accomplished on a project
  • Identify your own implicit biases, white savior complex and privilege and how to elevate others’ voices
  • Create a communication plan that works for community leaders and scientists engaged on the project
  • Establish a data policy that recognizes any sensitivities a community may have to sharing and making data accessible to the public
  • Involve policy makers in community science work
  • Navigate and facilitate difficult conversations
  • Be patient throughout the duration of a project
  • Share results in a way that leads to action at the local level

Participants also outlined three “controversial” topics (different, not universally agreed to, or non-obvious) that could be addressed in a handbook. The handbook could include guidance on how to:

  • Create opportunities for compensation or incentives to encourage participation
  • Establish a Community Peer Review
  • Others? (Add your ideas in the Comments section, below!)
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