Environmental Justice and Community-driven Research: Twitter Chat on November 13

Guest Post by Lynn Chesnut (@ramblynn1)

Hazardous waste dump protesters in Warren County, NC, in October 1982.

Citizen science projects address a wide variety of research needs from bee conservation to light pollution. This type of citizen science typically involves volunteers collecting data for projects created by “expert” scientists, and volunteer involvement often ends there. But there’s another citizen science. A citizen science that involves volunteers collecting data to address an issue, often environmental, that directly affects the health and quality of life of their community. These communities engage in citizen science in order to gain access to science that can help promote change-making. The health and life quality issues of these communities are often emergent. A neighborhood struggles to get recognition for water safety inequalities. A town battles state government efforts to locate a hazardous waste facility nearby. A community needs evidence that local industry is releasing noxious particulates into the air. The longer the problem persists, the greater the health risks. This citizen science is community-driven research.

The needs of those most impacted by environmental injustice may not align well with the interests of mainstream science which tends to maintain the status quo. How, then, do impacted communities address these emergent local problems? They must begin by forming effective relationships with science that serve their needs. They must find and gain access to needed tools. They must have a way to publicize and raise awareness of the issue at hand. They must transform their injustice into data and their data into action.

We will discuss these and other questions:

  • How can mainstream science support the needs of communities impacted by environmental injustice?
  • How can communities form partnerships that allow them to maintain control of their research?
  • How can a community gain scientific expertise without having to partner with mainstream science?
  • What tools are available to impacted communities?
  • How do communities gain access to and proficiency with those tools?
  • How can tools created for local issues be made useful more globally?
  • How can community-driven research and other grassroots citizen science help make science more diverse and inclusive?


Join us for Twitter-based #CitSciChat on Friday, November 13 from 3:30-4:30 PM ET to discuss the challenges faced and solutions created by community-driven research efforts. With typically about 200 people tweeting, re-tweeting, asking and answering questions, we welcome you to add your voice to the vibrant discussions! Remember to include the hashtag #CitSciChat when you chime in so that everyone can follow the conversation.

These panelists have been invited to participate in this CitSciChat discussion:

Liz Barry (@lizbarry) is the Director of Community Development at Public Lab, a nonprofit with the goal of democratizing science to address environmental issues that affect people. She develops geographic tools and civic science methods for collaborative cities. Her background is in urban landscape design, and she teaches at Columbia University and Parsons the New School for Design.

Abby Kinchy (@AbbyKinchy) is a professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a sociologist, working in the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS). Most recently, her research has focused on citizen science with the goal of bringing concepts of power and social justice into sharper focus in popular and professional discussions.

Raj Pandya directs AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange. The Thriving Earth Exchange helps volunteer scientists and community leaders work together to use science, especially Earth and space science, to advance community priorities related to sustainability, resilience, disaster risk reduction, and environmental justice.

Sacoby Wilson (@SacobyWilson) is an Associate Professor with the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health and Director of the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) laboratory.  Dr. Wilson has 15 years of experience as an environmental health scientist in the areas of exposure science, environmental justice, environmental health disparities, community-engaged research including crowd science and community-based participatory research (CBPR), water quality analysis, air pollution studies, built environment, industrial animal production, climate change, community resiliency, and sustainability.

During the discussion, the above panelists will post responses to questions about citizen science and activism on Twitter with #CitSciChat. You’re invited to follow along and answer the questions, too! Tag @ramblynn1 and use the hashtag #CitSciChat to join the conversation.

Lynn Chesnut’s Bio

Lynn spent nearly 20 years teaching middle school science before returning to grad school to pursue a doctoral degree in science education (what was she thinking?!). Her research interests include identifying and dismantling barriers to participation in informal science education for underrepresented groups. In her “free” time, she enjoys spending time with her teenage daughter, caring for a bunch of critters, walking in the woods, being crafty, and thrifting.



Categories: Citizen Science, Ecology & Environment, Science Policy, Science Practices, Tools

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