Before Citizen Science 2015 there was PPSR 2012 – arguably the birthplace of the Citizen Science Association. That two-day conference, held in Portland, Oregon, drew in practitioners from at least four continents, and showcased posters describing citizen science investigations on all seven continents.
The upcoming meeting in San Jose promises a similarly diverse, global representation of projects and practitioners. Over 60 registrants – so far – will be traveling to California from beyond the US, this time from 23 countries across six continents:
Global conversations about citizen science are critical for the advancement of this field, as innovations are not bounded by geography. For this reason, the Citizen Science Association is excited to be exploring partnerships with the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and the Citizen Science Network Australia (CSNA). During an October 2014 meeting (hosted by the Angela Marmont Center of the Natural History Museum in London), representatives of these associations identified three priority activities that make sense to collaborate on at a global scale: web tools to connect people and projects; a journal dedicated to citizen science practices; and open, international conferences.
Global-scale conferences will happen regularly, but infrequently (perhaps every five years). Cross-continental travel has its limitations as well as its benefits – it is resource intensive (think time and carbon, as well as money), and therefore isn’t an accessible or sustainable way to regularly engage the widest range of practitioners.
Regional and local conferences will fill an important niche, and international engagement will always be welcome – arguably essential – at such gatherings. For example, at the time of this post ECSA is hosting citizen science practitioners in Berlin for a General Assembly to prioritize activities for the coming year. This is held in conjunction with the second EU BON Stakeholder Roundtable on Citizen Science, an opportunity for participants from across Europe and beyond to explore how projects can meet data needs, funding priorities, and policy concerns.
Where global-scale conferences can broaden the conversation, conferences closer to home can also deepen it. At the 2013 Northern California PPSR Regional Workshop I watched attendees draw overlapping maps of their citizen science projects and realize that they were monitoring water quality, species diversity, and public health in the same spaces – opening the door to collaborations. Recent examples of gatherings at a larger regional scale include the PPSR Under Western Skies Conference hosted by the Miistakis Institute in Calgary, September 2014, and the CSNA Inaugural Workshop held in Brisbane in May. Regular events that focus conversations around shared regional concerns – as well as ones that engage dispersed practitioners around a shared practice like this month’s Community Based Science for Action Conference – can energize and connect people in ways that will amplify global, cross-cutting conferences that can happen only occasionally.
Let’s launch a truly global conversation, from the local level on up! Where are you based? How do you connect with others around citizen science?
–Jennifer Shirk is Communications Coordinator for the CSA, and is based at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where she works to build connections across the growing field of citizen science. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @ShirkSci.