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AGU Online Fall Meeting

If you are planning to attend the AGU Online Fall Meeting on December 1-17th, support some of our team members!

Moving From “Outreach” to “Engagement” in the Design of Community and Citizen Science Projects

Date: Friday, 11 December 2020

Time: 07:16 – 07:20

Location: Virtual

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Often framed as a strategy for science communication, education, and outreach, community and citizen science (CCS) have garnered increasing attention as an approach to scientific research that simultaneously offers authentic science experiences to the general public. While CCS can indeed support science learning, it can also honor community knowledge, foster the effective use of data in decision-making, and bridge the science-to-action gap. Envisioning the social goals of CCS solely as “science communication and outreach” can limit its potential to achieve these purported benefits, as these models are often based on a logic of unidirectional knowledge transfer. Achieving broader goals requires viewing CCS not just as a way to collect data and/or teach non-scientists about science, but as a forum for mutual engagement and joint learning between scientists, science-related professionals, and broader publics.

How can CCS projects achieve meaningful engagement between the public and professional science? This talk draws on lessons from participatory action research (Wilmsen et al., 2008) and community-based participatory research (Israel et al., 2013), as well as an in-depth manual for designing and implementing CCS projects (Meyer and Ballard, 2020). We present strategies for the design of CCS initiatives aimed at community benefits as well as scientific goals, and highlight points of tension that may emerge in collaborative processes. There is no one-size-fits-all template for those interested in CCS, but working through a series of questions and considerations can help to achieve shared goals.

To ground this discussion in a concrete case, we provide examples of ongoing work where scientists, local stakeholders, students, teachers, and ourselves are partnering to co-design CCS projects related to the Matilija Dam removal in Ventura County, CA, USA. Pilot data from participant observations of our collaborative process offer preliminary insights into how CCS can be designed to balance community members’ interests and values with monitoring needs as they relate to watershed management. We suggest that ultimately, recognizing multiple forms of expertise and developing relationships built on reciprocity is what will facilitate the emergence of broader social and ecological outcomes through CCS.


Christopher Jadallah

University of California Davis

Ryan McLaren Meyer

University of California Davis

Heidi L Ballard

University of California Davis

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