Community Science Labs, Science Shops , Amateurs and Experts

I was perusing a journal article today and found a reference to “Science Shops” which have been around for quite some time now in Europe. Yes, I’m on a voyage of discovery, always and so I stumble upon things which may be known facts to others. What’s interesting to me, one aspect at least, is that I’ve only now stumbled on this. In all the conversations I’ve had over the past couple of years no one has mentioned them as entities/ideas worth exploring.

(What, you may ask, as I did, are science shops? Science Shops are not “shops” in the traditional sense of the word. They are small entities that carry out scientific research in a wide range of disciplines – usually free of charge and – on behalf of citizens and local civil society.“)

This ties back to an earlier post I have about community science labs. While not the same, similar in providing access to experts and expert knowledge in the service of citizens and communities. It (science shops) also echoes elements of extension work, quite strongly.

I’m also spending some time contemplating amateurs and experts and the relations between them. Not new ground I know, been well trod before but it interests me. What is the role of the expert, the scholar, in relation to community? What are the stakes, as well, for each both in relation to each other and in self interest.

Community Science Labs

I’ve been thinking about things like Bioblitzes, ladybugs, phenology and other citizen science topics and it struck me that community based science labs would be a great resource for these types of projects. And I’m not thinking of a science museum/interactive science center but more along the lines of community technology centers– a place that would provide the tools for community members to engage in science, in their community. Would ready access to the tools encourage more participation? And would such centers foster and help to spawn community based science investigations?

At the, somewhat recent, Citizen Science Toolkit conference, one of the questions (among many) was about the necessity of having a “scientist” involved in the project. It’s an interesting question – does citizen science need a scientist? Given my pre-disposition, I would tend to argue that science can (and does) occur in the absence of scientists. This may seem unrelated to the first paragraph but there is a connection, because I could see community based science centers spawning community investigations….community science projects….which might or might not have a certified “scientist” at the helm.

If anyone out there knows of thriving community science labs I’d like to hear or know of them…..

Live from the Citizen Science Toolkit Conference

Working my way through the second day (1st full day) of the Citizen Science Toolkit conference here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is a humbling and energizing experience thus far. Humbling because there are so many good people here, smart, creative and motivated. Energizing because there are so many smart people here, the potential is tremendous. And there’s a willingness to exchange, share and create together that is hopeful…

Find myself stuck for words right now….not used to the intense charge and exchange of ideas thats going on. A soup, a slurry, of ideas is occupying my headspace right now. Half formed things beginning to shape into something….hopefully something that leads to tangible results.

Links I’ve visited today, as a result of the conference:

Discover Life

Virginia Master Naturalist Program

CyberTracker -this is cool, current #1 thus far

Ecological Monitoring and Assesment

Managers’ Monitoring Guide

More tomorrow….