There is an irony in being a person interested in online engagement with science, digital research, social media and divers public stuff and yet being a person who twizzles up inside when she thinks about writing a blog post. Like Pope Clement VI sitting out the Black Death, I am caught between two fires.
I’ve been telling myself I’d write a post when the results of my PhD oral examination and thesis were properly sanctioned but really, the official procedures take an unconscionable time, hence the embarrassingly long gap. To bring you up to date, back in the summer I survived the oral exam. and the examiners recommended I be awarded the PhD subject to some minor amendments to the thesis. I’m currently waiting to hear if the corrections have been accepted.
However, revenons à nos moutons, next week is Open Access Week around the world so I must ignore the flames of personal squeamishness and stoke the blaze of professional openness.
I will be playing a small part in the University of Exeter’s Open Exeter events, to talk about whether open science can be a shared space for fostering public engagement with science. The fact that citizens, community groups and NGOs are demanding – and in many cases getting – access to evidence that enables us to scrutinise research and participate effectively is widely recognised – for example by the Royal Society. That being so, we have to think about the relationship between professional and non-professional researchers; why might members of the public want to contribute to research? what knowledge and expertise will they bring? what new skills will participants need to develop? how are the contributions of all participants to be valued?
I’ll be helping to discuss the issues a bit further at SpotOn London, in November. With Cindy Regalado and Shannon Dosemagen, we want to explore citizen science as public participation in research. The spirit of SpotOn is very much about collaboration, connection and community discussion, so I intend to be as provocative as I dare! I’ll be starting the session by asking eh question of what we mean by ‘public participation in research’. Can we move beyond the concept of public participants as data suppliers, data organisers and human computers (effective though we might be in those roles and exciting as many people find such participation). How we can open science support co-creation and collaboration? How will the roles of ‘scientist’ and ‘citizen’ change? What happens when scientists are nudged from their traditional role as research designers and decision-makers? How do we value the contribution of the expertise and skills of citizen scientists? What ethical considerations are involved in challenging the notions of what ‘people’ can do? How do we value the validity and credibility of the contributions of citizen scientists? What are the current issues in participatory research in environmental and health research structures?
SpotOn will be livestreamed and tweeted (hashtag #solo12citizen). It will be interesting to see if the conversation goes beyond the room and into the open air.