Involving people from all walks of life in scientific studies through citizen science has enormous potential to demystify science and contribute to research. But first, we need to share ideas and best practice, build confidence within the scientific community and bring in the government agencies that might benefit. An international Citizen Science Forum held in Brisbane was organised by Inspiring Australia with this in mind.
From classifying galaxies far, far away to counting koalas across the country; from recording rainfall measurements to the croaks of pobblebonks and growling grass frogs, citizen science is gaining popularity with Australians who don’t have a scientific background.
But is the data reliable? Could citizen science be done better or more efficiently? Could it be better linked with mainstream scientific research? And are there organisations not yet engaged that should be? These are questions were the focus of the 2016 International Citizen Science Forum.
“Citizen science discussions often raise the issue of funding challenges, some of which stem from uncertainty about the value of data and outcomes in academic contexts,” says Jayne Keane, Manager of Queensland’s Inspiring Australia program.
“We’re working to address the gap between academic perceptions of citizen science data and how robust it can be in well designed programs.”
Jayne wanted to kick-start the work of the newly formed Australian Citizen Science Association, which received funding through the Australian Government’s Citizen Science package, and connect citizen science expertise with Inspiring Australia’s networks of science communicators.
Jayne timed the forum to capitalise on people’s travel to Brisbane for the inaugural World Science Festival Brisbane and the Australian Science Communicators’ conference in March 2016, brokering support from Brisbane Marketing and bringing in international collaborators, such as Susanne Hecker from the European Citizen Science Association, following Jayne’s input into their strategic plan.
Eighty people from around Australia and guests from overseas attended the forum and workshop. The participants are now taking what they’ve learnt, applying it, sharing it with their own local networks, and amplifying it into government circles.
“One of the purposes was to get people from government to come and hear about citizen science and possibly use it. Now it’s something they’re tuning their ears to.”