Blog Post

Is citizen science “hope punk?”

End of year reflections from CSA’s Interim Executive Director, Jennifer Shirk

The Global Mosquito Alert Consortium tackles issues of public health and species distribution through locally-driven data collection efforts.

“Hope punk” is, I’ve recently learned, a new term for the genre of podcasts that make up most of my playlist (and maybe some of yours as well).

As described by some writers and journalists, hope punk is the sense that we can make disruptive, positive choices in light of daunting and unthinkable challenges.

To me, this sounds a lot like citizen science. Many of us do citizen science in the face of challenges: climate change. Species loss. Seemingly incurable diseases. Injustices in environmental contamination.

And why citizen science? It’s a positive step that uses proven tools in new ways. With the strength of science in more hands, we can bring evidence to bear on problems that otherwise go unseen.

Sometimes, that evidence brings needed attention to overlooked problems (such as in the case of the Tonawanda Coke Factory). Sometimes it’s because the problem is at a scale that needs many observers or solvers to bring it into focus (such as global patterns in disease or in species population trends).

“… citizen science offers the power of science to everyone, and the power of everyone to science.”

— J. Shirk

In brief, citizen science offers the power of science to everyone, and the power of everyone to science.

Through the Citizen Science Association, I connect mostly with people who lead, manage, or research these efforts (although this is a field where roles are blurred). This comes with another set of challenges: ethical engagement. Data integrity. Collaborations, equity, reliable tools, science literacy, and much more.

In the face of these challenges, many of us feel like we do this work alone. And yet in March over 800 people will join together for CitSci2019 to share the hard, disruptive, and positive choices we are making to change the world through citizen science (hint: tackling many of those challenges above).

And this community is much, much bigger than those 800. Know that in facing all of these challenges, you are not alone. I feel incredibly privileged in my role with CSA to help people connect, to share challenges and ideas, and most of all to share the sense that this hard work is do-able and that it makes a difference. You make a difference. This field depends on each of our dedication, commitments, and new ideas to make citizen science possible… to make citizen science hope punk.  Thank you for all that you do for positive change through science.

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If you are feeling a little hope punk in the face of today’s unthinkable challenges and want to make a difference for citizen science, I invite you to make a gift to the Citizen Science Association. Donations to CSA help, among other things, to inspire, enable, and mobilize collaborative efforts across practices, locations, and disciplines to address cross-cutting issues and challenges. Here’s how you can support this work!

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