When curious citizens lead science – the paradigm shift arising from participatory science

When curious citizens lead science – the paradigm shift arising from participatory science

Author: Victoria Metcalf – Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, New Zealand

Kristiann Allen – Office of the Prime Minister
Craig Grant – Otago Museum
Sarah Morgan – COMET Auckland
Josh Richardson – Venture Taranaki Limited

Science is central to our daily lives and the global problems we currently face. A scientifically engaged society is critical, as is a socially engaged science sector. In response to this need, the Participatory Science Platform (PSP) has been piloted for the last three years in three New Zealand regions (South Auckland, Taranaki and Otago). The model is a world-first in its dedicated funding and national scope and is part of ‘Curious Minds’ (www.curiousminds.nz), a government-funded suite of initiatives recognising the importance of science and technology to New Zealand’s future.

Participatory science allows young people, their families and the wider community to connect with science and technology in a project-based fashion, where anyone can be fully involved in the scientific research process.

Within the PSP, communities work on projects meaningful to them in partnership with scientists and educators, harnessing local knowledge and providing quality learning opportunities, whilst doing robust science. The eighty-odd projects funded to date are diverse, but all have two-way engagement and communication of what they are doing at their core, using both informal and formal methods.

As National Coordinator for the PSP, I travel to the pilot regions to understand its impact. Indications are these projects are creating a paradigm shift in how science communication, science, and education are performed, whilst also empowering and building communities through the localised learning and solutions focus.

Our platform bridges the gap between scientists and communities, democratises and can improve the science process, and recognises many expertise and knowledge sources, including cultural knowledge. The local and less formalised approaches to science communication offer many benefits.

Benefits extend well beyond engaging with science and technology. This approach also spans the curriculum, and teaches young people citizenship, teamwork and transdisciplinarity.

The PSP model thus, has the potential to positively influence the science:society nexus.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Applying science communication research to practice