Blog Post

Law & Policy Working Group Hosts Webinar to Launch Question Submission Tool

By Shaun Goho, George Wyeth, and Lea Shanley, CSA Law and Policy Working Group

Lea Shanley, Shaun Goho, and George Wyeth. Photos courtesy of authors.

Citizen science practitioners can run into a variety of questions about the laws that affect how they can conduct their work, and how their data may be used by government agencies or courts.  For example, citizen scientists may want to know whether they need to get a permit before gathering data in state parks, whether there are limits on what activities they can carry out near pollution sources designated as “critical infrastructure,” or what data quality standards they must meet for a state agency to use their data.

As a service to the community, the Law and Policy Working Group has created a new online tool through which the citizen scientist community can submit questions about relevant laws and policies raised by citizen science projects.  The Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School has volunteered to make its students available to answer such questions. Questions can be submitted on the Working Group’s webpage, here.

The working group introduced the tool in a webinar on September 27, 2019.  During the webinar, Harvard’s Shaun Goho described how the Emmett Clinic became interested in the legal issues facing citizen scientists, and what it hopes to provide through this service. He highlighted some types of laws, such as trespass, ag-gag, critical infrastructure, and drone laws, that the Clinic has already examined as part of s 50-state survey for its Citizen Science Manual.

Image from Citizen Science Manual website

The service is not intended to address questions that are not related to citizen science activities (such as the interpretation of environmental laws in general), or to provide direct support for advocacy work.  This tool is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult your own legal counsel for legal advice (please see disclaimer below).

The Clinic intends to have students review questions approximately once a month during the academic year (September to April).  The Clinic cannot guarantee that it will be able to answer every question.  Whether it can answer them and if so how quickly will depend upon the number of questions the Clinic receives and student availability.  Your questions and your patience are appreciated.

Some questions may be of general interest to others in the field of citizen science. The clinic plans to post these questions publicly, building a common legal question section on the CSA website. 

CSA hopes that citizen scientists will take advantage of this new service.  To see the full webinar, go to:

The CSA Law and Policy Working Group’s next webinar will be on November 22, 2019, from 1:00 – 2:15 PM ET and will focus on citizen science and consent. 

DISCLAIMER: CSA and CSA’s Law & Policy Working Group cannot provide legal advice or any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.  Clinic students are not practicing attorneys.  By answering questions, Clinic students are not providing legal advice, are not acting as your attorney, and are not serving as a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Their answers to submitted questions do not create an attorney-client relationship or a commitment to answer additional questions.  Communications between you and the Clinic’s students are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine.

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