What can universities bring to citizen and community science? What can citizen and community science bring to universities?
We have been talking to colleagues all over the world about this double-sided question. As the field of citizen and community science continues its astounding growth, we believe there will be a continual need for reflection, research-based insights, and a space to nurture exciting new ideas about how individuals and communities can make participation in science a part of their lives. And how we can make interaction with diverse publics a regular practice of science.
Universities at their best are engines of creativity and discovery, pushing the limits of our understanding and capability. Citizen science and community science are providing exciting new tools and approaches in that vein. Low-tech or high-tech, global or local, we are seeing new ways to advance knowledge and address environmental problems through science that welcomes many forms of participation. From that perspective, it is easy to see how universities can contribute to, and benefit from, this field. We aim to play a role in both its intellectual and practical development, based on a foundation of useful research and innovative collaboration.
Universities must also be places of opportunity, access and dialogue. Creativity and discovery are not enough if walled off from society, limited to a privileged few. Last week we saw an example of this value in University of California President Janet Napolitano’s reaffirmation that “Dreamers” deserve the support protection of California’s system of higher education. It points to broader questions — who feels welcome in science? Who drives scientific inquiry, and who gets a stake in its outcomes? A Center for Community and Citizen Science can help to inject these important values into the university environment — the idea that anyone can play a valuable role in knowledge-making, and that science must open up to diverse and distributed participants in order to retain and grow its social value.
At the Center for Community and Citizen Science, we look forward to working with you and expanding our community in the year ahead.