On 12th May, one of our lecturer’s Dr Hilary Geoghegan hosted a citizen science conference at the British Ecological Society in London. Working with colleagues from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, Hilary welcomed participants for a one-day event to discuss the ‘human’ element of citizen science – specifically the volunteers, professional scientists, practitioners and policymakers that make up this ever-growing field.
The event attracted over 40 researchers and practitioners interested in the social dimensions of citizen science. A widely accepted definition of citizen science is the participation of non-professionals in professional science projects. However, more work needs to be done to reflect on participation in citizen science – a research approach that is developing at a breakneck pace. Dr Geoghegan said: “My research area of enthusiasm, namely the emotional affiliation we have towards things and activities we care about, is of significant interest to professional scientists, research councils and policymakers as they establish the ways in which they will engage with citizen science in the future. Without an understanding of why people do and do not participate, citizen science projects may fail.” You can find tweets on the subject via the hashtags #BESCitSci and #CitSciPeople
Dr Geoghegan holds an ESRC Future Research Leader award and has used the time and resources offered by the grant to examine the social aspects of tree health citizen science. She has been interested in the place of ‘citizen science’ within emerging tree health policy and the enthusiasm of scientists, policymakers, press officers, web editors and database managers for citizen science. Her next step is to interview volunteers in tree health citizen science projects to understand why they survey and monitor trees.
In 2013 Dr Geoghegan joined the Department of Geography and Environmental Science and since then she has travelled to Australia to discuss enthusiasm for trees in Melbourne and Sydney. She has also spent time building networks with colleagues in Biological Sciences on tree health. She is a founder of the UK’s Tree Health Citizen Science Network.
If you’re interested in this area and would like further information please contact Hilary: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @DrHG. She also hosts a blog www.hilarygeoghegan.wordpress.com focussing on life as an academic and her research interests.