Studying Public Participation in Scientific Research and Its Impact on Identity November 2013
Heidi Ballard, associate professor in environmental science
education at the UC Davis School of Education, received a
three-year $283,907 grant from the National Science Foundation to
examine how participation in authentic scientific practice
fosters and supports lifelong science learning.
Ballard, who is quickly emerging as a foremost expert on public
participation in scientific research (PPSR, sometimes referred to
as citizen science), is particularly interested in the impact
that engaging in scientific research has on participants’
scientific identity, understanding of science, and advocacy for
Her current project, “Collaborative Research: Exploring
Engagement and Science Identity through Participation,” will
provide an analysis of six PPSR projects with adult participants
that represent a range of project types and levels of
participation. Some of the programs are classified as
contributory; these are national programs which require
participants to observe specific species and submit data online.
The collaborative projects included in the study require
participants to provide some research design and analysis of
data. Finally, two of the projects are classified as co-created
because they involve local participants in nearly every aspect of
“This variety will allow us to study how breadth and depth of
research engagement influences individual STEM [science,
technology, engineering and math] learning outcomes and science
identity,” said Ballard. “If the goal of informal science is to
promote continued public support of science, advance the
democratization of science, and increase the scientific
workforce, it is critical that we understand why and how science
interest is sustained and why and how people identify with
In August, Ballard presented her research at the Commonwealth
Club in San Francisco. She was joined by Professor Gretchen
LeBuhn, who teaches at San Francisco State University and directs
the world’s largest citizen science undertaking on pollinators,
The Great Sunflower Project.
Listen to a podcast of the presentation on iTunes. Choose #4:
Backyards, Beaches, Birds (posted on 9/2/13).
Heidi Ballard is the Founder and Faculty Director of the Center
for Community and Citizen Science. You can find more information
about her past and current projects, and sign up for occasional
updates at the Center’s website.