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Why are we so into community science?

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We think community science is cool for a lot of reasons. Here are the 10 things we love about #commsci:

  • Science is more usable when it co-designed, from the ground up, to address a community priority. More usable science means more impact, more support for science, and more people interested in doing science.
  • Community science is a way to bring diverse voices and perspectives into science. As you may have noticed, in the US, the demographics of geoscience do not mirror the demographics of the nation. If we want perspectives and insights from diverse communities, we’ve got to reach beyond scientists. Community science is a way to do that.
  • Arguably, the best way to learn science is by doing it. Community science invites people to be part of science, so its’ all about learning by doing.
  • We think community science is a nice complement to more traditional ways of doing science. Science has made enormous advances through basic research that wasn’t designed with a community. Future advances will happen that way, too. We aren’t at all suggesting that needs to stop. In fact, if community science does make people more excited about science in general, it may actually enable more scientist-directed research.
  • Using science well requires more than science. To be equitable in application of science we need ethics and morals. To be inspiring, we need arts and literature. By making science a community effort, community science makes it easier to connect science to other ways of knowing and experiencing.
  • Community science values local knowledge. Science should use all available evidence and we need strategies for finding and incorporating new sources of data. Community science is great way to do this, because it welcomes local or indigenous knowledge in a respectful, participatory way that isn’t colonial or exclusively self-serving.
  • Community science promotes inter-disciplinary action. When was the last time you saw a community priority or challenge that nestled neatly into a single academic department?
  • Community science offers a place for scientists who want to make a difference and encourages the use of their social skills every single day. I worry that we lose people like that to other fields and, in the process, perpetuate the stereotype of the awkward, isolated scientist.
  • Lately, technology allows people to easily collect and analyze data. Because of that, we have an opportunity, now, to democratize science. Finally, being a renaissance man doesn’t require a wealthy patron or being part of the privileged elite. Community science can help us enter the era of the renaissance person.
  • Society needs science, and community science is a way to help society get the science it needs. A question I hear from frustrated scientists is: “Why won’t society listen to us and take advantage of our insight and discovery?” Community science is an answer to a slightly different question: “What can we scientists do differently to make sure that our insight and discovery is actually used?” As scientists will tell you, sometimes asking the right question is the real breakthrough.
raj pandya editor

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