Citizen Science and What’s in a name

Citizen Science…

This topic and even the term is a can of worms that can be discussed for days later, but I’d like to use it as a jumping off point. I’m a huge fan of citizen science. It’s an incredible way to get people of all ages and backgrounds engaged and actively participating in current research. And it’s a term that is not only informative in regards to the type of method being used to conduct research but also a badge people can wear with pride. Given the direction of my current research though, I feel as though the term either needs to become more encompassing or I need to create a new one. Because what do you call it when people’s support and sharing info to others helps fuel a project even though they aren’t actually collecting any data for the research?

As I plan for my summer field season and get the specifics of my project set up, I’m realizing that one of, if not, the only way I’m going to be successful is if people help me. The questions I’ll be chasing first, revolve around what the current Michigander attitudes and background knowledge of my study species (Great Lakes Piping Plover) are in an attempt to help influence future conservation efforts. Given that this is incredibly human oriented compared to strictly bird focused, I already know that the challenge of not getting enough data won’t be due to issues catching birds but issues getting people to participate. Thus, I also know I’ll be relying on people to help me not only by participating but encouraging a friend (hopefully friends) to as well.

So disregarding the issue of labels, what do I call the wonderful people that will be supporting my project? Science helpers? Science supporters? Does that even matter? The involvement of a citizen helping science even if they aren’t in the field getting bird data should be highlighted. Sometimes the ripple effect of telling someone else about a project is just as valuable.

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