The EPA announced a series of workshops it will hold in New York City and New Jersey later this month to discuss the potential interplay of scientific research and community life through "Citizen Science" projects.
Federal, state and local government representatives will attend along with academic leaders in the field of ecology and other related disciplines. The workshops will teach attendees how to kick-start these types of projects as well as how to fund them. The NYC workshop will take place June 19 at EPA NYC's office at 290 Broadway; they will be held the following day at the EPA's New Jersey office at 2890 Woodbridge Avenue in Edison, NJ.
A British sociologist named Alan Irwin developed the concept of "Citizen Science” in response to a growing distrust and misunderstanding of the scientific community by the public that developed during the 1980’s. It describes a species of scientific research that takes disclosure and public interest as its highest priorities instead of catering primarily to its own practitioners and community. Citizen Science defends the validity of scientific research by showing how it relates to the larger world outside of campus. Faculty, students and non-students alike can potentially learn a lot from these types of projects.
Programs of this type in both Australia and South Africa have met with considerable success in the recent past.
The University of Australia (UniSA) started a Citizen Science program called Operation Spider in 2010. Operation Spider brought kids from Adelaide, a poor suburb, into contact with university faculty and the student body in order to collect data on spiders in the area. In a retrospective article on the project, teachers found that Operation Spider "de-mystified" the inner-workings of the university system for kids who would otherwise have little direct exposure to it. For many of them, the program even succeeded in fostering aspirations toward higher education.
Les Underhill, an ecologist at University of Cape Town received the Harry Oppenheimer Fellowship Award for a Citizen Science program early this month. He plans to organize non-university affiliated people to produce a current and trustworthy map of the behavior and movement of the region's mammalian populations.