Citizen Science 2017 – Day 1 (Morning): Flint Water Study, EPA use of citizen science and engagement

Shannon Dosemagen introduces the keynote speakers by pointing that citizen science provides a way to question how science is done and how is doing it. Within citizen science, it is important to notice that scientific degrees don’t always translate to leadership. The keynotes speakers where Dr. Marc Edwards (Virgina Tech) &  LeeAnne Walters (Coalition for Clean Water). Marc started in an area of

Source: Kaberi Kar Gupta

Marc started in an area of research about home water systems and was approached about lead contamination in a case before Flint that got him engaged with community issues. LeeAnne gave a back story of Flint – the change in the water source to the Flint river, leading to a deteriorating quality of water – people getting sick, and having health impacts across the city. This was ignored by the city authorities and the community members were described as liars and stupid. That was the point where she decided to learn about the science – got through a lot of learning about water distribution system. In April 2015 in interaction with professionals, she pointed that “I’m not a scientist, but I am trying to be” and with EPA being shocked about the results from the water. They started to work with Marc in 2015 and when they put the report in that year the EPA apologised to the city authorities about releasing information to the public. In late 2015 they did a city-wide study in 2015 with NSF funding to carry out a 300 houses studies across the city. Marc – the roles here need to be clear – when LeeAnne called, she has done all the science that was needed. There are many problems with the current system and scientists are trained cowards. LeeAnne brought a case where all the science have been worked out, but without scientist approving the information this was not acceptable. Citizens are “not allowed to have a brain” while scientists are “not allowed to have a heart” – the scientists are not expected to be activists. LeeAnne – she’s been dismissed, ignored and called stupid although they have done the science and carried out the study carefully – in citizen science, the issue is who is going to be credited. In the Flint story, no one cared about the credits – it was about saving a city and helping children not to be poisoned. During the first year, they were dismissed by the state authority – Virginia Tech did experiments that the state was supposed to do with school children and then the kids wrote to the governor. There was no science to do – it was about fighting to get things right. The support to Flint already passed $600m and this is because it managed to become a national story in 2016. Marc points that he see LeeAnne grows from concern citizens to a very capable leader in citizen science. You need a strong trust and collaboration between citizens and scientists. The issue is that cheating by officials about water quality is happening across the country because of lack of funding and pressures on resources in both rural and urban communities. The Flint story doesn’t happen every day with over 40 documentaries to date about it and the citizen science collaboration. Citizen Science at its worst and can be exploited. After the federal emergency was declared – there was

However, Flint provides a demonstration for Citizen Science at its worst and can be exploited. After the federal emergency was declared – there was an effort from authorities, EPA and others to rebuild trust, but into the scenario of trust and Water Defence – an organisation that started claiming that the water are not safe to bath or shower, and they gave statements to this effect. The Water Defence people claimed of a scare and that caused an increase in disease, and there was no way – a Shigella outbreak,. The organisation was selling water filters to people, with the Water Defence who present itself as citizen science leading people to buy products. The way to deal with that was to call them out and the confrontation and discrediting them helped to deal with Shigella. The organisation is finding bacteria that no one can find, and doing all sort of methods and arguing that they give people information and claiming – when you give fame, money, then just like with academia, there is a risk for citizen science is hijacked towards bad ends. Pushing $5000 to the second poorest city in the US is irresponsible. LeeAnne – we need to keep the integrity of citizen science and keeping in a proper scientific way and this needs to be done. The right way is the only way. LeeAnne is refusing to receive any compensation for working over 60 hours a week to avoid conflict of interests. In society, there is a backlash against science, which is part because they talk down to people. Marc has used over $300k of discretionary funding to pay for the study – and part of it was returned through crowdfunding because of the media visibility. LeeAnne was trained and ask EPA and the Marc lab thought them how to sample, and even checked on EPA sampling and even corrected them on their methodology as she learned in and was doing it. Marc – working together with citizens require a lot of thinking. Preparing suitable test kits, training material, working with the community, and knowing that your career is on the line – the stakes are high as there are very powerful interests and very little room for any error. For every 10 communities, with 9 it will be “the water are within the federal standards” and need to have difficult conversations. We have many injustices – with air, water, and other issues. Citizen science can be a tool to shine on these injustices and then they can be addressed and fixed. The use of the provided a way to share information. One of the more memorable events was when officials and scientists on the official side laugh at LeeAnne in her face to dismiss her – you need to be trustworthy by yourself and with your work. When LeeAnee asked questions about lead poisoning, people from the department of health saying “it’s just a few IQ points, nothing more serious”. For LeeAnne, the health issues around here were the motivation and things that keep her awake at night and get through what is going on in academic papers – understanding the chemical reactions and interactions was challenging. Marc – in terms of academic incentives, the focus on publications can be very damaging in terms of holding data and not sharing it – it was important to share it openly to make the people in flint able to use it. There are issues of calling out.

Citizen Science Across a Spectrum: Building Partnerships to Broaden the Impact of Citizen Science

Environmental protection belongs to the public: A vision for citizen science at EPA Alison Parker (ORISE fellow hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency) opened the discussion – she raised the advisory council for environmental policy and technology that developed a report (developed from 2015 and published end of 2016). The report called “Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public” with a vision for Citizen Science at EPA. Over the year, the council became convinced about the power of citizen science and its relevant to environmental protection. There are 4 overarching recommendations for citizen science, and that includes two citizen science models were identified: one led by scientists (citizen science) and use community citizen science to describe the community led. The recommendation in embrace citizen science as the main tenet of environmental protection; the EPA should take a collaborative approach to citizen science and listen to voices that are working in citizen science to make a decision. The second recommendation was that there will be investment in citizen science – specific funding streams, either new or in existing plans. The third recommendation is that the EPA will enable the use of citizen science data: a positive approach towards the data, set standards and provide guidelines. The fourth recommendation is to integrate citizen science into the full range of work of the EPA. Doing more than just contributing data.

Enabling Effective Environmental Decision Making in the Western Balkans via Citizen Science
Clayton Cox, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, US EPA – started using different participatory methods to see and contextualised community view in the Balkans about watershed management. They realised that EPA tools are not suitable, and done community led pilot project focused on common issues – illegal dumping. They introduce BioBlitz to Montenegro and consider BioBlitz as a way to increase dumping. The BioBlitz worked and identify over 30 medicinal species. To identify solid waste, they used a monitoring app with 700 data points. In Serbia, they introduce methods to improve watershed stewardship – both local concerns and regulatory issues (EU water directive). They increased partnership to SEPA and World Bank.

Civic monitoring with low-cost tools
Scott Eustis, Gulf Restoration Network talked about expanding work by using different approaches in the Gulf Restoration Network. An area that is both industrial and natural resources. The restoration effort following the deep water horizon disaster requires community-led monitoring. There are doing monitoring in 30 sites across the region. The type of conflict includes the issue of a conflict between coal terminal and a restoration area. Kite mapping allowed to see into the state of the pollution from the activity. There are many activities in science that get ignored. We need to get to accountability through engaging people and need people with environmental concerns, people with expertise that can translate it to the language of power, and you need enthused organisers – to work together.

Discussion: how to get attention – in the Balkans, there is a selection bias of people that were invited by the REC, so Clayton didn’t have a problem getting in, but the communities there has an issue with population loss – for example. Scott – some balloon mapping trips were sold like fishing trips. They also have a programme to pay people to get engaged. Clayton – as an EPA representative, there is an issue of not going into advocacy but more about the approach and helping people to understand the condition. Scott – within the restoration effort, health is not involved, but health is a major issue on the Golf and there is a very high bar to prove them. Clean energy also come up in discussions. Health impacts are there, but the burden of proof is bigger.

Are there case studies that can link citizen science to the wider range of environmental governance – from community engagement to enforcement. There is a need to consider issues of data quality and process in order for it to be heard, but also to think about community building and the party board. Most of the federal agencies, which give funding now require evaluation and evidence to demonstrate what was done. There are groups in Seattle that monitor creaks in the area, but the focus of different bodies – e.g. EPA region 10 is less focused on the engagement. Getting people engaged is a big issue, and sustaining people through the e.coli monitoring every week is a major effort. So they share maps every week, nd have quarterly meetings to discuss the data with food, and they also engage with the utility company who have limited abilities (one person). In Oklahoma there is issue of maintaining interest, they are encouraging the groups to get together. Participants want to know that data is used.

Community Empowerment session

From Stewardship to Citizen Science: A Closer Look at the Learning Trajectories of Volunteers in an Environmental Education and Stewardship Program
Jennifer Preece* – University of Maryland; Tamara Clegg – University of Maryland, College Park; Carol Boston – University of Maryland; Daniel Pauw – University of Maryland, College of Information Studies; Elizabeth Warrick – University of Maryland, College Park

Collected data from interviews, surveys and participants observation. They used both inductive patterns and in structure codes to look at learning. They found that learning happen when people are developing awareness – fuelling passion through a capstone project and then developing community wide interest. People need support in their capstone group and from people who done similar projects. Funding and resources are important. In communication – noticed issues about social context. Working understanding strong water management, supporting communities with tools, addressing communication and interaction – through system to increase engagement. People are interested in understanding what is going on with streams – for example pollution and lack of fish in the water. Through learning about the project as the main issue, but then to consider how it can see how the work can evolve into citizen science. Issues of faith-based organisations and racial issues are address – there is some diversity on the project team, but not enough. Some stewards are

Science in Transformation: Stories of Interdisciplinarity and Public Engagement
Amy Lesen – Tulane University. She build on the work of Shila Jasnoff pointing that we need to relinking larger scales of scientific representation with smaller scales of social meaning. The challenge is that climate change and coupled nature/human system need interdisciplinary work and require communication with wider groups in society. Academic in biophysical science are not rewarded for work that involve collaboration with social science, working with community and civic engagement etc. The question is then is there a cultural shift that are happening? What are the challenges for people who are doing that – challenges and success and what are the stories of those. She done that in long historical interview and understand how they got engaged. The research subjects are people that involved in long term urban ecology sites – people who done outreach, policy engagement, and those working outside academia. She found how much this studies are highly interdisciplinary, involve participatory and community engaged methodologies, work closely with policy makers, but than experience push back from people in their discipline. The people who are involved notice issues such as social justice issues. One of the interviewee talked about who do we used the word scientist for – anyone who is doing citizen science and community science and follow the scientific method is a scientist. Citizen science helped in recognising their needs and wishes – building relationships is critical to make community engaged work.

Poster session


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Professor of GIScience, University College London

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