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Public Participation in Scientific Research: a Framework for Deliberate Design

Jennifer L. Shirk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Department of Program Development and Evaluation
Heidi L. Ballard, University of California Davis, School of Education
Candie C. Wilderman, Environmental Studies Department, Dickinson College
Tina Phillips, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Department of Program Development and Evaluation
Andrea Wiggins, DataONE, University of New Mexico
Rebecca Jordan, Rutgers University, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
Ellen McCallie, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Matthew Minarchek, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Department of Program Development and Evaluation
Bruce V Lewenstein, Department of Communication, Cornell University
Marianne E Krasny, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University
Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Department of Program Development and Evaluation

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04705-170229

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Abstract

Members of the public participate in scientific research in many different contexts, stemming from traditions as varied as participatory action research and citizen science. Particularly in conservation and natural resource management contexts, where research often addresses complex social–ecological questions, the emphasis on and nature of this participation can significantly affect both the way that projects are designed and the outcomes that projects achieve. We review and integrate recent work in these and other fields, which has converged such that we propose the term public participation in scientific research (PPSR) to discuss initiatives from diverse fields and traditions. We describe three predominant models of PPSR and call upon case studies suggesting that—regardless of the research context—project outcomes are influenced by (1) the degree of public participation in the research process and (2) the quality of public participation as negotiated during project design. To illustrate relationships between the quality of participation and outcomes, we offer a framework that considers how scientific and public interests are negotiated for project design toward multiple, integrated goals. We suggest that this framework and models, used in tandem, can support deliberate design of PPSR efforts that will enhance their outcomes for scientific research, individual participants, and social–ecological systems.

Key words

citizen science, community-based monitoring, conservation, outcomes, participation, public, volunteer monitoring
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087