By Mark Chandler and the Professional Development Working Group
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One of the more egregious sins of blog writing may well be using jargon, but it seems unavoidable when wanting to write about professional development. The terms “professional” and “development,” let alone the two brought together, are open to all sorts of interpretations, especially in the world citizen science. Yet most of us have experienced professional development in one form or another and find it helpful and important when done well. We use the term to mean learning, capacity building, and idea-sharing opportunities that aim to improve the significance and effectiveness of citizen science, especially through the use of evidence-based practices for enhancing project success.
Here we kick off a series of blog posts from the Professional Development Working Group, specifically to invite input into the CSA’s design of professional development (“PD”) resources and support that are accessible and relevant to this diverse community of practitioners. Professional development itself is diverse, and may take the form of conferences, blogs, workshops, books, online resources, and conversations that lead to changed individual practices and discussions across our community of practitioners. In some contexts PD can also include the building-up and strengthening of institutions to deliver impactful citizen science. Some activities may aim to distribute knowledge to large audiences across large geographical scales (e.g., via literature through open access publishing; web-based learning; conferences), while others may directly target audiences (sometimes one-to-one or small groups) in specific locations (e.g., through workshops, correspondence and mentoring schemes).
Our membership includes people working with online citizen science, community-based monitoring, crowd-sourced contributory citizen science, community science, and more, and involves research in almost every scientific discipline. This variety raises several fundamental questions for you, our community of practice, as we prioritize PD activities:
- What are your PD needs related to citizen science? What resources would be most useful?
- What PD related to citizen science have you found useful to date?
- Where do you access these resources (e.g. training programs, colleagues, online tool kits etc.)?
Seeking to support PD for the great diversity of audiences found in our community has been identified as a priority for the Citizen Science Association. Given the diversity of interests within the citizen science community, a number of key questions about professional development arise. What are the priority needs? What resources are already in use and can we make these more accessible? What are the best mechanisms for accessing PD for the most people? We are seeking input from the citizen science community to explore these questions.
The working group is excited about supporting a range of professional needs of CS community going forward. We are launching a new blog series to initiate and stimulate conversation across the citizen science community around PD. The conversations will help us to provide a set of resources on the CSA website, support symposia or workshops, and build a stronger citizen science network over time.
To start the dialogue, we have identified an early list of some modes of PD that could inspire the professional development working group, including resources on the CSA website. These include:
- Toolkits with resources to develop, implement, evaluate and report on CS programs including those available online (e.g., www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/toolkit; www.citizenscience.gov)
- Training opportunities, both online and in-person (e.g., CitizenScience.org/2016/07/26/educators-citizen-science-training-opportunities)
- Online training examples include project-specific training like National Ecological Observatory Network’s Citizen Science Academy, and non-project-specific training like Schoodic Institute’s online training for the US National Park Service.
- In-person training for specific programs (e.g., FrogWatch, Cascades Pika Watch, Earthwatch’s Urban Resiliency Program)
- In person for more general support, such as at conferences, or as part of other programs (e.g., Master Naturalist programs)
- Inter-personal connections made via networking or other connections at professional association events/conferences (e.g., North American Congress of Conservation Biology 2016)
- Connections and support that can be facilitated by societies (e.g., Citizen Science Association, European Citizen Science Association, Australian Citizen Science Association)
- Blogs, presentations, publications (including special issues such as in journals like Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment August 2012 or Biological Conservation October 2016).
To the citizen science community we ask: What what kinds of professional development would support YOUR needs? What formats are accessible to you, and what would you make most use of? We are excited about how the direction and flow of the conversation will be modulated by input from the incredible community of practice that exists. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.