Public Participation in Scientific Research: a Framework for Deliberate Design

Friday, June 1, 2012
Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed article
Environment Type: 
Citizen Science Programs, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks
Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists | Evaluators
Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Education and learning science | Nature of science
Cornell University, University of California, Davis, Dickinson College, University of New Mexico, Rutgers University, Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Members of the public participate in scientific research in many different contexts, stemming from traditions as varied as participatory action research and citizen science. Particularly in conservation and natural resource management contexts, where research often addresses complex social–ecological questions, the emphasis on and nature of this participation can significantly affect both the way that projects are designed and the outcomes that projects achieve. We review and integrate recent work in these and other fields, which has converged such that we propose the term public participation in scientific research (PPSR) to discuss initiatives from diverse fields and traditions. We describe three predominant models of PPSR and call upon case studies suggesting that—regardless of the research context—project outcomes are influenced by (1) the degree of public participation in the research process and (2) the quality of public participation as negotiated during project design. To illustrate relationships between the quality of participation and outcomes, we offer a framework that considers how scientific and public interests are negotiated for project design toward multiple, integrated goals. We suggest that this framework and models, used in tandem, can support deliberate design of PPSR efforts that will enhance their outcomes for scientific research, individual participants, and social–ecological systems.


Team Members

Candie Wilderman Candie Wilderman Author
Andrea Wiggins Andrea Wiggins Author
Matthew Minarchek Matthew Minarchek Author
Marianne Krasny Marianne Krasny Author
Rick BonneyAuthor

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