Welcome to the very first blogpost from the OPENER team. 

Some of the OPENER project team at the Salford kick-off meeting (sadly minus Ed, Heather and Poppy)

As you will have learnt from our blog so far, we’re committed to opening up science for all! Our ambition is for large-scale public involvement in environmental research, through citizen science, for the benefit of us all. Our planet is in crisis and we need to work together to understand it better. The participation of people from all communities through active participation in environmental science is central to this.

I’m Hilary Geoghegan and I am coordinating this Stage 1 project to create a national vision for what a community around public engagement with environmental research and citizen science in the UK might look like. (Stage 2 (if funded) will be a national scale project to implement our findings and ambitions from Stage 1.)

We are funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) to spend the next 12 months (Oct 17- Oct 18) identifying how we can transform public ‘engagement’ with environmental research from the passive consumption of media-channelled facts, or ad hoc one-off contribution to a single initiative, to an ongoing active and routine engagement with environmental research, participating, questioning and debating. We know this is ambitious and we are keen to work with you to figure out how to make this happen.

The team and I, along with our project partners and many of you too, will have witnessed first hand the actual and potential influence and impact that widespread public participation in science can have in addressing environmental challenges, asking new and important research questions and enabling people to engage on their own terms. We want to support this shift through the development of a generation of researchers who can utilise techniques of successful public engagement and citizen science, as well as appreciate the ethical and social implications of participation and the environmental issues in question.

How are we going to do this? Well, we know we can’t do everything at once (as much as we’d love the resources and capacity to run citizen science projects in every community around the country!) So our broad plan for Stage 1 is to understand the opportunities, barriers and solutions surrounding any potential national coordinated approach to citizen science and public engagement. We will work with other NERC funded projects, project partners, interested individuals, groups, communities and organisations to do this through 5 phases:

Phase 1: Getting organised

October-December 2017

  • announce OPENER project,
  • start Twitter (@OpenUpSci),
  • begin to collate list of interested parties,
  • develop webpages,
  • consolidate small project teams,
  • develop evaluation strategy,
  • hold project kick-off meeting for day-to-day team
Phase 2: Testing the water

January-March 2018

  • launch OPENER webpages and mailing list,
  • attend environment and engagement events,
  • devise and launch survey,
  • start to collate and share community assets, such as reports, webpages, videos on citizen science and public engagement,
  • launch UCL free online course “Introduction to citizen science and scientific crowdsourcing”
  • host first local community of practice events
Phase 3: Taking stock

April-May 2018

  • evaluate all activities within OPENER so far
  • hold project analysis meeting with day-to-day team to share findings
  • develop online training to extend the UCL course
  • continue to share community assets via webpages
  • monitor and extend range of individuals, groups, organisations and communities participating in OPENER
Phase 4: Creating a vision

June-July 2018

  • host national ‘visioning’ event to detail and bring to life the potential community for public engagement and citizen science
Phase 5: Making some concrete plans

August-October 2018

What can you expect from this blog? We know blogs only really work if they are regularly updated. Good news – we’ve done our homework and have some posts ready to go. You can expect weekly/fortnightly posts about existing community assets on good practice around citizen science and public engagement, lessons from overseas, stories from major national and local initiatives, news from events and conferences…

What next – Join us! We really hope that you’ll join us on this journey towards a national community of public engagement with environmental research and citizen science. You can become involved in the following ways:

Whether you’re a conservation volunteer, a primary school teacher, a journalist, an engagement specialist, a professor, a gardener, an A-level student, a parent, a community leader, an enthusiastic observer, a politician, a research funder, a charitable organisation, a dog walker, a science graduate, or any combination of the above, we’d love you to contribute to our exciting next steps.

Thanks for reading,