“The other arguments in favour of community-based monitoring – that it leads to good management outcomes and local empowerment – may turn out to be nothing more than incidental ‘co-benefits’ from the perspective of conservation scientists seeking more and better data. They are nice while you can get them, and they certainly create a good story for donors, but they are not the underlying goal.
A further irony is that some of the next wave technologies that could make citizen scientists obsolete as collectors of data for conservation science are likely to actively undermine the very empowerment that citizen science is supposed to promote. Drones hovering above park boundaries, listening posts in the forest and tracking devices invisible to the naked eye all have the potential to create (even) worse relations between conservation and local people… If local people feel threatened and marginalised because parks start to deploy drones, the drones are unlikely to be worth it no matter how good the data they can provide. … Finally, those promoting CBM for management and empowerment should not over-commit to partnerships with the conservation science community. Right now such partnerships offer access to additional funding opportunities, but there is a significant risk of the relationship breaking down in its early stages.” (Emphasis added)
Citizen Science – research conducted in whole or in part by non-professional scientists – seems to be everywhere at the moment; from our back gardens to remote tropical forests, on our TVs and in our academic journals. It offers something for everyone: scientists like its potential to generate lots of data at low cost; sociologists like the way it changes the relationship between science and the public; the media like its ability to connect with individuals and their personal stories. There are concerns about the quality of data collected by amateur citizen scientists, but there is increasing evidence that they can be of comparable quality to professionals, if those collecting them receive the right training. Citizen Science has been used to look for climate patterns in historical weather records, to unlock the secrets of faraway galaxies, and to map the sacred sites of Congolese forest people…
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