Blog Post

Announcing a new name for this Association

Purple poster announcing a new name for the citizen science association

A long-awaited step forward for this Association was announced in late May:  members voted in favor of a new name. 

While the details of that name have yet to be finalized (see live announcement below), the broad strokes are for an Association Advancing Participatory Sciences. The final “s” in this string of words may be the most powerful – not the capital “S” that designates the scientific domain, but the small one that affirms a plurality of people and practices. We are, as stated in our most recent strategic plan, “… a member-driven organization that connects people from a wide range of experiences around one shared purpose: advancing knowledge through research and monitoring done by, for, and with members of the public.” Participatory Sciences finally and formally recognizes, right up front, that we engage, elevate, and advance the many ways of doing this work – work that goes by many names.

This renaming decision can’t be separated from another 2019 strategic plan designation:  that this Association is both globally connected and focused on a North American audience. This allows us to work effectively on field-wide projects through collaborations with sister Associations (e.g., Citizen Science: Theory & Practice and the Citizen Science Global Partnership). It also provides a focused scope of influence (and fluency) in regional policies and funding structures. Relevant to renaming, this means we operate within a specific historical and cultural context*, one that affects the people, practices, and possibilities we engage and serve.

Renaming an Association should not be confused with either a new name for the field or a mandate for others to make change, nor should it be seen as an abandonment of the term that built this movement. As some have recently written, “citizen science” in global communities is recognized an inclusive term for these practices. Others help us see that, for many (particularly but not exclusively in the US), the term “citizen science” limits engagement and causes harm. These two things which may seem to contradict each other can both be true – the challenge is in how to operate in light of that complexity.

The new name (along with extensive work behind the scenes to ground intentions in actions – examples here and here) builds on the past, attends to present and ongoing realities, and positions us for rapid and intentional future growth. We are now better able to reflect, engage, and learn from the many long-standing traditions that utilize related practices. With integrity, we can attend to the historic and current ways that language limits opportunities. We have paved the way for a future that embraces more nuanced and precise use of terms and related practices, and are uniquely situated to advance the use of those practices in every discipline and domain.

Ultimately, our commonalities and strengths as a field are in what we do, not in what we call what we do. Our priorities continue to be growing the work of this Association and field, and as such we will be rolling out the name change in service to that over the next six months to a year. For more about the process leading to this name change and moving forward, please see below.

* Primarily, but not exclusively, in the US, concerns include: a) geopolitics and the utility of “citizen” to divide rather than unite, b) limited (mis) understandings of “citizen science” as solely scientist-driven research, c) limited (mis) understandings of “citizen science” as solely education or outreach. This cultural context has become limiting not only to volunteer participants, but also limits potential partnerships/collaborations, funding opportunities (several US federal agencies have turned away from the term), and affiliations/collaborations.

ANNOUNCEMENT EVENT, Live transcript and recording

The following content is an excerpt of CSA Board Chair, Austin Mast, announcing the new name at the C*Sci2023 Closing Event. Minor additions and transcript edits provided by Reanna Putnam, CSA Program Manager. With the exception of the YouTube content, links here go to deeper conversations in CSA’s Member Engagement Platform. Next steps to formalize the name change will be shared there with members – here’s how you can join.

Austin Mast: Thank you, everyone, for the care, attention, and passion that you’ve put into the conversation around the name change for CSA.  This post is intended to share some of the content from the in-person closing Celebration! of the C*Sci 23 Conference on May 25, 2023.  During that time the results of our recent vote on name choices were shared, as well as a bit of context for the vote. 

And the winner of the vote is (drum-roll please) . . .

Full closing remarks available here: https://youtu.be/L-dkagwrJls

Association for Advancing Participatory Sciences

This is a name that conveys what is at the core of our members’ activities, and it is something of a creative launching pad.  We can imagine that we might see the name used as the beginning of phrases on our webpages, stickers, and other materials to illustrate the many dimensions along which we are advancing participatory sciences, such as:

Association for Advancing Participatory Sciences…

with community peers,

via Citizen Science

for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion

at NASA

in classrooms

for Kentucky

for global relevance

to name a few ideas. It would also mean that we stand with our friends in the Global South in the Ibero-American Network of Participatory Science (RICAP) with our common word choice. 

Some important context about the name change:

At its heart, CSA is an organization that catalyzes broadened and, especially, deepened engagement across historical boundaries to produce high-value knowledge to benefit the world. The catalysis happens by the production of products and services, such as the conference, the journal, working groups, and more. The name change is about the organization, and not necessarily the products and services.

Furthermore, we are not seeking to change the way that anyone in our community describes their own work, since the most resonant terminology will likely vary by context.  Also, we are not seeking to weaken the global momentum behind the use of “citizen science” as a big-tent term (e.g., in ECSA, ACSA, Citizen Science Global Partnership).  It is the word used in many important, hard-won policies.

Our recent path in the name change conversation has can be described in four steps.

  1. The Board+ED developed criteria for a new name and shared it with the full membership (Criteria for the new name described in this post)
  2. The full membership was invited to propose new names that fit the criteria. (Long list of names were given in this post)
  3. The Board+ED considered all proposed names against the recognized criteria and created a short list. (The short list of names were given in this post)
  4. The full membership was invited to vote on the short list. (The runner up is… Public Engagement in Research and Science Network (PEERS Network or PEER Science Network)

We now have the result of the vote on the short list, and our announcement of the result will initiate another round of conversations in the full membership about the winner.  We are doing this because the Board+ED have continued to hear potentially valuable observations and suggestions (e.g., to add “North American” to the name).  We are not yet announcing what this looks like in all details (e.g., duration, plan for full member vote) because we are currently transitioning to a new board year, and the existing board wishes to hand over responsibility of handling the name change to the new board with as much flexibility as is reasonable.

In closing, CSA director, Jennifer Shirk, reminded us that:

We are not here because of a name.  Yes, the name matters, but what matters is the work. What matters is what brings us here together, and what matters is where we are going and building on the momentum, the connections, the ideas, [everything] that we’re all taking out of this meeting, and taking that into the next 10 years and beyond.”
 

Again, thank you for the care, attention, and passion that you’ve put into the conversation around the name change for CSA. We look forward to continuing this conversation.

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