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How can you achieve your research and educational goals with Citizen Science? - a lecture by the US expert Heidi Ballard

In the USA, citizens have been involved in scientific projects for decades, particularly in the natural and environmental sciences. For Heidi Ballard, this was the first point of contact with this type of research. At that time she decided to set up a participatory action research project and, with the help of migrant harvesters, to investigate the ecological effects of harvesting the evergreen shrub "Salal".

Heidi Ballard is now a professor and director of the Center for Community and Citizen Science she founded at the University of California, Davis. In June, she came to Vienna at the invitation of the Center for Citizen Science. In her guest lecture "Achieving real outcomes for science and for education through citizen science: Why and how can researchers and institutions incorporate citizen science as a core strategy?" on 17 June at the Natural History Museum Vienna, she highlighted the different effects of Citizen Science on education and research and at the end presented Citizen Science measures of selected institutions.

  • “Community and Citizen Science”

There are different Citizen Science definitions worldwide - sometimes broader, sometimes narrower. Heidi Ballard uses the term "Community and Citizen Science" to include research projects led by science and the community. Her focus is on project outcomes and processes and, in particular, how they can contribute to better practices in environmental and science education and better protection and management of natural resources.

  • Science and Environment

Citizen Science projects have great potential to make valuable contributions to science. Although high-quality data is produced, only part of it is used for further research and published scientifically. According to Ballard, one cause can be traced back to the object of the funding. Numerous Citizen Science projects in the USA receive funding for data collection, but not for data analysis and interpretation. An analysis of the impact on environmental protection reveals not only the scientific impact but also the impact at policy and management level.

  • Education and learning

Heidi Ballard sees the effects of participating in Citizen Science projects in three educational areas: "scientific learning and engagement", "civic engagement and leadership" and/or "environmental responsibility". Effects related to scientific learning can, for example, increase the understanding of project-specific knowledge, scientific processes or identification with science. It is interesting to note that the majority of participants do not see themselves as "researchers", but as contributors and even as part of the scientific community.

  • Institutions

If one looks at the institutional level in the USA, five universities stand out above all, which take different measures to integrate Citizen Science more strongly within the institutions. These include the University of California, Davis, Arizona State University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington and North Carolina State University. They rely on partnerships (e.g. match-making between researchers, communities and authorities or cooperation with schools), education (e.g. Citizen Science in courses), competence building (e.g. Citizen Science training for researchers, awards for faculties or researchers for Citizen Science) and technology (e.g. platforms for data collection and analysis, resources for researchers).

Heidi Ballard's lecture was followed by an interesting reply from Barbara Prainsack, Professor of Comparative Policy Analysis at the University of Vienna, in which she discussed the development and democratization of Citizen Science. Subsequently, the participants had the opportunity to contact the two experts directly. The numerous questions from the audience showed how great the interest in the implementation of Citizen Science projects was. However, they also showed that the level of knowledge of the actors in the field of Citizen Science is still very different.

The presentation of Heidi Ballard can be downloaded HERE.

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