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In support of our core values: A conference decision

Integrity And Survival, Flickr image by Jeremy Brooks (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Monthly Letter from Greg Newman (the CSA Board Chair) to all CSA members…
May 25, 2016 • Fort Collins, Colorado

“Values have been like the middle children of the nonprofit sector, wedged between the older brother Vision and the ‘me-me-me’ baby of the family, Mission, whom everyone has to pay attention to all the time. Or maybe Mission is the bossy older brother, and Vision is the baby. Or maybe Mission is like the mom who makes us eat our vegetables, and Vision is like that cool but aloof cousin. [Regardless], I cannot imagine any other way to run an organization except to base it on a set of core values.”  ~ Vu Le, Director, Rainier Valley Corps

As many of you already know, the Citizen Science Association has been in the midst of making a very challenging decision regarding our upcoming 2017 conference location. Simply put, we were faced with a central question: To move or not to move given the recently passed Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – House Bill 2 (HB2) in North Carolina? In wrestling with this complicated, yet important decision, we found ourselves thrown into many tasks such as surveying our membership and community of practice to gather your feedback; communicating openly and transparently about our process and progress; gathering as much data and information as we could on various financial liabilities; working with our local host planning committee to gain insights and advice; and reaching out to our own working groups – specifically our Integrity, Diversity, and Equity; Ethics; and Conference Working Groups – to solicit their opinions and guidance.

In doing this work, I now realize that we were acting on behalf of core values that we hold, but have yet to articulate as an organization – values of inclusivity, respect, and openness to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, accessibility needs, or country of origin. This also made me realize the importance of more clearly defining our core values, even though we all know and embrace aspects of these values at some level – aspects that are at the very heart of citizen science such as “anyone, anywhere can participate in science,” “diversity and inclusivity,” and being “a community of practice built on collaboration” that has as one of its goals “fostering diversity and inclusivity within the field.”

It is with great pride in this organization and all who comprise it that I can say we did our very best to uphold these core values in our decision to relocate our 2017 conference from Raleigh, North Carolina to another venue in a more welcoming state.

Our decision was based on our firm belief that our conferences ought to be held in locations and in ways that welcome all people into a safe space to discuss and advance the field of citizen science. This decision was not easy. We did not want to simultaneously or inadvertently hurt any of our colleagues and partners in North Carolina (or for that matter anywhere). We also did not want to be fiscally irresponsible with respect to the use of our funds and assets – funds that must remain dedicated to the purpose of advancing our mission, vision, goals, and objectives as an association focusing on advancing citizen science. Compromises have certainly had to be made in order to move the conference. However, we believe that the choice to move the conference takes into account each of these complicated considerations, and is a choice –however difficult– that we feel confident our partners, members, and broader community can respect.

Throughout our deliberations, our local host committee and conference planning committee remained steadfast in support of the CSA regardless of our decision. Although our final decision was to move our conference to another venue for 2017 (yet to be determined), we are pleased to re-commit to Raleigh for our 2019 conference and we look forward to continue working with our Raleigh partners. The CSA board wishes to extend our deepest appreciation to our membership for providing feedback on this issue, our local host planning committee for continued support and understanding, and our Working Groups for their dedication to equitable solutions for all involved.

Greg Newman

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