A framework for design of public participation in scientific research

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Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) refers to intentional research collaborations between professional scientists and members of the public, where the initiative aims to build on established knowledge and to contribute new understandings. PPSR efforts have emerged from a variety of social and academic traditions ranging from participatory action research in the fields of development studies and public health, to citizen science projects with a long history in ornithology and astronomy research, to water quality monitoring and community-based natural resource management. In contexts of conservation and ecology, such efforts invariably confront the complexity of questions and issues related to people in their environments.

As such, there are demands for PPSR initiatives in these contexts to meet complex and often multiple goals, generally for multiple constituents. Across the range of PPSR projects operating in conservation contexts, project goals and outcomes tend to fall into three main categories: those for research (e.g., scientific findings), for individual participants (e.g., access to information or acquiring new skills), and/or for socio-ecological systems (e.g., influencing policies, improving communities, and/or taking conservation action). Until recently, little in the way of empirical data has been available to inform design choices regarding what types of approaches yield what outcomes, and thus it can be difficult for project leaders and collaborators to make strategic decisions about aligning goals, outcomes, and tradeoffs in the design and refinement of projects.

We discuss how recent work in multiple traditions converges to describe three different models of public participation in scientific research (PPSR), all suggesting that the degree to which the public participates in a given scientific research endeavor is a key predictor of project outcomes. These intentional collaborations can also be understood as operating within a common logic framework, which acknowledges the multiple, integrated goals of such projects and considers how the degree and quality of participation relates to specific outcomes. Designers and facilitators of initiatives involving public participants in scientific research can use the framework and models to reflect on relationships between their approaches to collaboration with public audiences and observed outcomes, and may consider how applying ideas from other approaches could more intentionally target their goals.

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  • We define public participation in scientific research (PPSR) as public involvement in one or more steps of the scientific research process: asking questions, collecting data, interpreting results.
  • What is citizen science and PPSR? Because I’m here from the Lab of Ornithology, I’ll give you this example to start. Watch the map [note: this animation of advancing and receding bird migration will not be visible in SlideShare]. This science, the science of landscape-scale migration patterns, could not happen without thousands of eBird contributors across the continent. The power of citizen science is in observations.
  • But the power of citizen science is also in experiences. This is Sherman’s Creek, outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where residents in the 1990’s began collecting baseline water quality data in the watershed. They knew the resource intimately, now they also know it scientifically.
  • Looking across the field of PPSR, we set out to explore what kinds of outcomes these projects could achieve. There were scientific outcomes, such as peer reviewed publications. There were educational outcomes, including increased awareness about environmental issues. And there were outcomes for social-ecological systems, including action to improve surroundings. We propose that these outcomes are related to the degree, as well as to the quality, of participation opportunities.
  • Although the degree of participation could be described in any number of ways, we look at the depth of public involvement in the research process.
  • We define the quality of participation as the way in which the interests of different partners are balanced in the design of a project.
  • Although there may be many different partners involved, we specifically focus on the balance of scientific and public interests. This framework describes proposed relationships between how those interests are balanced at the outset, and the way that balance can affect project outcomes. Essentially, the quality of participation at the outset will likely determine the degree of public participation throughout the research process.
  • It is more challenging to test how these models relate to outcomes, as data on outcomes are limited. These are some summarized results from Danielsen et al.
  • By compiling outcomes data from Danielsen, the CAISE report, and a few papers offering case studies, we see a general trend in relationships between project approaches and outcomes.
  • To better determinerelationships between the degree and quality of participation and the outcomes projects achieve, we need more and better outcomes data. From the information already available, we believe that these models and framework offer opportunities to address unachieved outcomes, if project designers are reflexive and intentional about design.
  • We believe that articulating commonalities between project types can help explore meaningful differences. It is important to continue to build conversations across traditions, to better understand different approaches and to share insights about how approaches relate to outcomes. We suspect that integrated approaches and cross-tradition investigations can grow the larger field in new and compelling directions.
  • For more information, and updates about new developments in citizen science and other forms of public participation in scientific research, see www.citizenscience.org or contact cscentralat cornelldot edu
  • A framework for design of public participation in scientific research

    1. 1. Public Participation in Scientific Research: A Framework for Intentional Design<br />ESA, August 2011<br />Jennifer Shirk1, Heidi Ballard2, Andrea Wiggins3, Tina Phillips1, Rebecca Jordan4, Candie Wilderman5, Ellen McCallie6, Rick Bonney1<br />1Cornell Lab of Ornithology<br />2University of California, Davis<br />3Syracuse University School of Information Sciences<br />4Rutgers University, 5Dickinson College<br />6Carnegie Museum of Natural History<br />
    2. 2.
    3. 3.
    4. 4.
    5. 5. Degree<br />Participation<br />Flickr photo, sierraclub<br />Quality<br />
    6. 6. Participation<br />degree – who participates, and in what?<br /> depth of public involvement in the research process <br />Participation<br />degree – who participates, and in what? <br />(in our context, depth of public involvement in the research process) <br />quality – whose interests are being served, and to what end? <br />(in our context, how interests are balanced in a project’s design)<br />degree – who participates, and in what? <br />(in our context, depth of public involvement in the research process) <br />quality – whose interests are being served, and to what end? <br />(in our context, how interests are balanced in a project’s design)<br />
    7. 7. Degree of participation<br />Contributory<br />Collaborative<br />Co-Created<br />Define a question/issue<br />Gather information<br />Develop explanations<br />Design data collection methods<br />Collect samples<br />Analyze samples<br />Analyze data<br />Interpret data/conclude<br />Disseminate conclusions<br />Discuss results/inquire further<br />Bonney et al. 2009. CAISE Inquiry Group Report.<br />
    8. 8. Participation<br />degree – who participates, and in what?<br /> depth of public involvement in the research process <br />quality – whose interests are being served, and to what end? <br /> how interests are balanced in a project’s design<br />Participation<br />degree – who participates, and in what? <br />(in our context, depth of public involvement in the research process) <br />quality – whose interests are being served, and to what end? <br />(in our context, how interests are balanced in a project’s design)<br />degree – who participates, and in what? <br />(in our context, depth of public involvement in the research process) <br />quality – whose interests are being served, and to what end? <br />(in our context, how interests are balanced in a project’s design)<br />
    9. 9. Activities<br />Outputs<br />Outcomes<br />Impacts<br />Inputs<br />Scientific interests<br />Science: <br />Research findings, publications<br />Develop project infrastructure and manage project implementation<br />Observations and experiences<br />Sustainability<br />Resiliency<br />Conservation<br />Identify question or issue<br />Social-Ecological <br />Systems: <br />Action, legislation, relationships<br />Individuals:<br />Access to information, new skills<br />Public interests<br />
    10. 10. Degree of participation<br />Contributory<br />Collaborative<br />Co-Created<br />Define a question/issue<br />Gather information<br />Develop explanations<br />Design data collection methods<br />Collect samples<br />Analyze samples<br />Analyze data<br />Interpret data/conclude<br />Disseminate conclusions<br />Discuss results/inquire further<br />Bonney et al. 2009. CAISE Inquiry Group Report.<br />
    11. 11. Community-based participatory research<br />Community Workers I<br />Community Workers II<br />Degree of participation<br />Define a question/issue<br />Gather information<br />Develop explanations<br />Design data collection methods<br />Collect samples<br />Analyze samples<br />Analyze data<br />Interpret data/conclude<br />Disseminate conclusions<br />Discuss results/inquire further<br />Wilderman 2004<br />
    12. 12. Collaborative monitoring with external data interpretation<br />Collaborative monitoring with local data interpretation<br />Externally driven with local data collectors<br />Degree of participation<br />Define a question/issue<br />Gather information<br />Develop explanations<br />Design data collection methods<br />Collect samples<br />Analyze samples<br />Analyze data<br />Interpret data/conclude<br />Disseminate conclusions<br />Discuss results/inquire further<br />Danielsen et al. 2009<br />
    13. 13. Danielsen et al. 2009<br />
    14. 14. Shirk et al. submitted, Ecology and Society<br />
    15. 15. Degree<br />Participation<br />Flickr photo, sierraclub<br />Quality<br />
    16. 16. Public Participation in Scientific Research<br />
    17. 17. For more information:<br />citizenscience.org<br />cscentral@cornell.edu<br />Works cited:<br />Bonney, R., H. Ballard, R. Jordan, E. McCallie, T. Phillips, J. Shirk, and C. Wilderman. 2009. Public Participation in Scientific Research: Defining the Field and Assessing Its Potential for Informal Science Education. A CAISE Inquiry Group Report. Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE), Washington, D.C.<br />Danielsen, F., N.D. Burgess, A. Balford, P.F. Donald, M. Funder, J.P. Jones, P. Alviola, D.S. Balete, T. Blomley, and J. Brashares. 2009. Local Participation in Natural Resource Monitoring: a Characterization of Approaches. Conservation Biology 23:31-42.<br />Wilderman, C.C., A. Barron, and L. Imgrund. 2004. From the Field: A service provider’s experience with two operational models for community science. Community Based Collaboratives Research Consortium Journal. Spring 2004.<br />

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