Citizen science makes breakthrough post-pandemic

Excerpt from Times Higher Education

Equity challenges loom, but solidifying evidence of value brings academic stature to science of partnering with the public

November 19, 2021
Look up! Scholars can learn from amateur enthusiasts, such as birdwatchers on the hunt for a great horned owl in New York

After a decade of steady growth in the concept of citizen science, several US universities are placing big bets that the approach is hitting critical breakthroughs in cost savings and capacity for discovery.

The front-runners include North Carolina State University, Arizona State University and Cornell University, all of which have hired faculty to systematically push ways of infusing research with public input.

The institutions have positioned themselves out front at a moment of fast-accumulating evidence that average citizens can make meaningful contributions to science – yet amid lingering concerns about data accuracy and reliability, and more substantial fears about undermining social equity.

Academic sceptics remained, but the evidence of net value has now become overwhelming, said one leading practitioner, Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice at Arizona State. “That ship has turned for sure,” Professor Cavalier said.

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.