General information Heidi Ballard

Report: Learning from Public Participation in Scientific Research programs in Northern California

Preliminary Findings from the Northern California PPSR Inventory Study


This project arose from the realization that projects involving public participation in science vary widely, and often work in isolation from each other. These range from ‘citizen science’ projects for which people submit data about birds or plants online, to environmental justice-oriented community-based participatory research, and everything in between. These projects all revolve around members of the public collaborating in some form with scientists to answer environmental science questions. We use the term, Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) to broaden from the concept of ‘citizen science’ – to include this wide array of disciplines, types and levels of participation, and communities involved (see Bonney et al.,2009, for details on PPSR).

This document contains preliminary data from a research project about the range and types of PPSR projects in Northern California – our intention is to contribute to the conversations at the Northern California PPSR Regional Workshop, while also ‘ground-­‐truthing’ or verifying the data with the practitioners at the Workshop. This feedback from PPSR practitioners will help us identify gaps, areas to focus on, and make sure the results truly reflect experiences in the field.

Northern California PPSR Inventory Study Goals

  1. Characterize the different types of PPSR programs currently available in Northern California
  2. Identify essential elements and assets of these programs
  3. Begin to identify ways to assess outcomes on science learning and environmental stewardship
  4. Provide opportunities for PPSR programs to collaborate and expand their reach and impact
  5. Lay the foundation for research on participant outcomes of different types of PPSR projects

Despite increases in ‘citizen science’ as a vehicle to conduct research, promote learning, and engage the public in environmental issues, we lack research and evidence of how particular aspects of engagement in citizen science relate to individual environmental learning and stewardship behavior outcomes, and about citizen science’s broader impact on conservation efforts. Further, although citizen science has great potential as a tool of science engagement and environmental justice, often these worlds remain isolated from each other.

To begin to address these gaps, we set out to create a comprehensive inventory of citizen science projects in Northern California, analyzing program characteristics across diverse projects; and hope to build community of practitioner researchers. Throughout the research process we are engaging PPSR designers, leaders, scientists and participants to guide research priorities and questions about the impacts of PPSR.

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