Skip to content. Skip to navigation

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Sections

Flickr photo by brewbooks, http://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/184343329/

   Download this summary as a PDF            Go to full workshop proceedings

 

On April 7th and 8th, 2011, 60 practitioners from a diversity of academic, government and non-profit sector backgrounds came together to answer the following question:

How can public participation in scientific research (PPSR) help to bridge the divide between science research and conservation practice?"

 

We know that conservation is as much about people as it is about biodiversity; all ecosystems are influenced by people and conservation is dependent on managing, appreciating, and involving people across all walks of life. But how can we best involve communities to participate in this process? How can we ensure that the scientific results are relevant for decision-makers? These and other key questions helped to frame the discussion during the two-day workshop. Participants engaged in a number of tasks for which a summary of results is reported here.

  

  1. We shared success stories and took stock of progress in linking PPSR and biodiversity conservation. (read more)

  2. We analyzed, discussed, and dug into cases that participants presented to identify key strategies for developing conservation-related PPSR initiatives. (read more)

  3. We considered the above issues in exploring ideas for new PPSR projects and new components or tools to enhance existing ones. (read more)

  4. We generated ideas for promoting communication, networking, and partnerships among individuals and organizations working in PPSR and conservation. (read more)

 

People come to PPSR initiatives for different reasons and engaging them happens not just on a technical level, but also on an emotional one. Joining in the discussion leading up to and over the course of the two-day workshop we contributed to that social capital essential for laying the groundwork for a community of practice for conservation PPSR.

Semmens at matrixMaximize engagement on matrixWolley and Sterling at matrix  Bonney and Danielsen with working group 

 

1. We shared success stories and took stock of progress in linking PPSR and biodiversity conservation.

Through the sharing of stories and experiences, we heard how effective collaborations tie conservation efforts to larger issues such as water and environmental policy, land use, sociology and socio-economics. Glimpses into existing projects illustrated the potential for PPSR to be mutually beneficial for scientists and the public, enabling scientists to gather large quantities of data that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, and participants to connect and engage with the management of resources that directly impact their lives.

While PPSR initiatives can offer opportunities for people from different cultures to come together with a common conservation goal, we also heard cautionary tales about how individuals from different groups felt rejected in their efforts to bridge the gap between scientists and the public, and are aware of the work that needs to be done before PPSR is widely accepted among both scientists and practitioners in the conservation field.

Return to summary

 

 

2. We analyzed, discussed, and dug into cases that participants presented to identify key strategies for developing conservation-related PPSR initiatives.

With the help of a framework that comprised a cross-section of key questions and components in project design, we identified several important areas for further focus and exploration. These are:

  • Diversity and inclusiveness: A multi- or trans-disciplinary approach is vital for PPSR to be scientifically relevant, community-connected and collaborative. This requires the involvement of a diverse set of stakeholders from project inception to the dissemination and application of the findings. Diversifying means more than inviting people to participate; it requires a dedicated effort to find common ground from the start.
  • Participant engagement: We need to provide multiple opportunities and low thresholds for entry in order to ensure that it is easy for participants to get involved and stay engaged. One way to do this is to seek to strike a balance between research needs and participants’ interests and abilities, whether they are city dwellers with leisure time to collect data or rural community members who depend upon local resources for their livelihoods.
  • Integration of local, lay and traditional knowledges: There are many different “ways of knowing,” in addition to western science, that have much to offer the field of conservation. If PPSR is to be truly participatory, we must find ways to validate these different kinds of knowledge that are respectful and empowering to those who hold them.
  • Learning for empowerment: We should support volunteers and community members not only to collect, but also analyze and understand the data, and disseminate findings. As participants learn to find the stories in the data, they play a key role in moving the research to real conservation action.
  • Translating into action: We can extend our impact by designing projects that incorporate conservation actions as an object of study even when this is outside the initial project scope. There is a need to develop metrics to assess changes in people’s attitudes and behavior over time and across programs to understand how PPSR offers an educational process that builds the capacity to translate learning into conservation action.

Return to summary

 

 

3. We considered the above issues in exploring ideas for new PPSR projects and new components or tools to enhance existing ones.

Participants proposed projects and concepts to move forward, and working groups discussed these:

  • Building on the low threshold for entry represented by the phenological observations (the study of seasonal phenomena) that people often make without even being aware of it; an opportunity to move the public from being observers to being actors.
  • If PPSR is to be relevant for communities that been historically left out of the conservation movement, it must address questions and needs of these communities, and issues of environmental and social justice.
  • When working in contexts in which local and indigenous peoples are dependent upon natural resources there is a “zero” step that needs to be undertaken, that of “deep hanging out” in order to build relationships for working together.
  • Engaging the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pass through the ecologically fragile Galapagos archipelago annually, representing a huge untapped resource of data-collecting volunteers for the monitoring of biodiversity.
  • Taking advantage of the resources that institutions like museums have to offer – expertise, access to audiences, and reputation – to be a connection point for PPSR opportunities.
  • Modifications to the “steps” in PPSR project design in the Citizen Science Toolkit (citizenscience.org) could include guidelines for making conservation outcomes intentional and explicit in design and for integrating ethics into the process.

Return to summary

 

 

4. We generated ideas for promoting communication, networking, and partnerships among individuals and organizations working in PPSR and conservation.

In a round table setting, workshop participants discussed how to link the workshop’s focus on conservation with initiatives that are broadly addressing challenges for PPSR, and conversely, to bring PPSR into strategies for conservation. There was great interest in forming a professional association for PPSR. Participants also learned about and contributed ideas to the NSF-funded DEVISE project (Develop, Validate, and Implement Situated Evaluation Instruments for Informal Science Education) to develop and test assessment instruments for PPSR, and discussed best practices for PPSR data management. There was also discussion of the two deliverables set out in the grant proposal:

  • Further development of Citizen Science Central (citizenscience.org) with which participants were acquainted either through previous experience or through the lead up to the workshop in which the site hosted information about applying and an online discussion forum.
  • Creation of a supplement to Tools of Engagement (audubon.org/toolkit), a conservation planning document presented at the workshop in its BETA version. A deliverable for this grant is to create a module on Citizen Science and Conservation, which will supplement this toolkit for engaging people in conservation.

Return to summary

 

New AMNH logo   Audubon logo   CLOlogo.png

 

NSF logo small