OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) is a large scale “citizen science” public engagement project in England that is engaging volunteers in gathering scientific data on biodiversity, water quality, earthworms, air quality and climate change, as well as several independent smaller volunteer science projects. Drawing on debates concerning the nature and validity of participatory knowledge production and the implications for traditional boundaries between experts and publics, this paper reports on a study of the experiences and assessments of the scientists involved. It looks at the question of whether participatory science projects can overcome some of the institutional and career obstacles typically encountered by scientists working in public engagement work. The paper further explores the nature of knowledge production in these circumstances, the way it is deployed by the scientists and the implications for professional identity and policy engagement.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

What has public engagement ever done for us?
The value of “citizen science” public engagement projects from an opal scientist perspective

Hauke Riesch   Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London

Clive Potter   Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London

OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) is a large scale “citizen science” public engagement project in England that is engaging volunteers in gathering scientific data on biodiversity, water quality, earthworms, air quality and climate change, as well as several independent smaller volunteer science projects. Drawing on debates concerning the nature and validity of participatory knowledge production and the implications for traditional boundaries between experts and publics, this paper reports on a study of the experiences and assessments of the scientists involved. It looks at the question of whether participatory science projects can overcome some of the institutional and career obstacles typically encountered by scientists working in public engagement work. The paper further explores the nature of knowledge production in these circumstances, the way it is deployed by the scientists and the implications for professional identity and policy engagement.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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