1. Makeda Cheatom
  2. Executive Director
  4. WorldBeat Cultural Center
  1. Marilu Lopez Fretts
  2. Bilingual Community Outreach Specialist
  4. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  1. Karen Purcell
  2. http://celebrateurbanbirds.org/
  3. Project Director
  5. Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  1. Bobby Wilson
  2. CEO
  4. Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
  1. Tanya Zwald
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tanya-zwald-15b9807a/
  3. Youth in Action (YA!) Program Manager
  5. Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES)

Supporting Equitable Approaches for Co-created Research from the Ground Up

NSF Awards: 1811234

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Undergraduate, Graduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

Historically, the majority of programming, evaluation and research on citizen science has been led by academic institutions, and frameworks and approaches, even when following culturally responsive techniques, have been informed by dominant culture worldviews. In view of the growing mistrust of science institutions, and the power inequities between these institutions and the community organizations needed to support projects, these approaches and motivations rarely work. We share a different model, led by 15 representatives from underserved communities. Our community-led approach aims to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR) as we document and self-reflect on the equitable co-creation of a community science project.  

With funding from NSF, we have co-created a framework to increase meaningful engagement of diverse audiences in science. Over the next three years we will ground-truth our framework as we co-create a model community science project, for use at the continental scale. The project will connect underserved communities with science in authentic ways and produce research results and educational materials that directly benefit the participating communities. The project will bring awareness about noise pollution, an issue of concern identified by the communities, and promote wellbeing and connection with nature. We intend to generate data to potentially change policy in neighborhoods where noise may be interfering with human health. Our co-created research will include methodologies that have the power to give voice to perspectives that have historically been silenced through traditional research and can be used to co-create more appropriate and relevant research metrics.

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Original Discussion from the 2019 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • May 13, 2019 | 09:48 a.m.

    I am very interested in this topic and we recently presented about this at the Citizen Science Association meeting (Ethical Protocols for the Recognition and Engagement of Citizen Scientists and Their Data).  I am especially interested in ways to enhance engagement of citizen scientists in areas they are often excluded from including 1.Representing and interpreting findings, 2.Proposing modifications to protocols, and 3. Future directions.  The issues of ownership, access, and analysis of data and the collaborative determination of the direction of research questions are critically important for greater engagement of citizen scientists and I am wondering how your project might inform these questions?   

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    May 13, 2019 | 02:03 p.m.

    Hi Melissa,

    We created our Community-Review Board of Non-negotiables to help guide us. We believe that it should not be dominant culture institutions that "allow" access or modification of protocols, but that it should be the underserved communities themselves that are equal partners in the decision-making from the very beginning. Please check out our project non-negotiables and our ICBO Working Agreements. I hope this is helpful.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 13, 2019 | 03:07 p.m.

    Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for watching our video. We are happy you are interested in ways to enhance engagement in areas from which communities have been excluded. Our approach was to use community-based participatory research with grounded theory approaches. Our mission, vision, rules based on Jemez Principles community review board of non-negotiables guide our work. The research comes from the community and it is co-lead, co-created with our institution. Our project has informed our work.

    • We’ve been interpreting findings and disseminating the work using the arts (music, theater), spoken word, dance and creative body movement, non-academic language, and we have developed engaging posters using graphic novel style, drawings, photography to document process and photo voice. The group wants the findings to benefit their communities in a practical way and for everyone to understand and be included.
    • We did not propose modifications to protocols, but co-created them in ways that make sense to the community.
    • In this new grant project, we are living all we’ve learned and putting it to action.


    1. Research in our communities must be conducted with respect and cultural competence.
    1. research in Our communities must include our communities from the beginning.
    1. Research in our communities will be beneficial and empowering to our communities.
    1. Researchers must have a deep understanding of equity*.
    1. Researchers must have a high level of emotional intelligence.
    1. Researchers will use vocabulary that is easy for everyone involved in the project (and their communities) to understand.
    1. Researchers must understand our communities’ priorities.
    1. Researchers will not use our communities as guinea pigs. We do not want to be studied or used for the benefit of others.
    1. Research in our communities will be honest, transparent, and have high integrity.
    1. Researchers will be clear and transparent about their agenda.
    1. Researchers will NOT use our communities for the benefit of their institutions or for their personal benefit.
    1. Research results will always be shared with our communities first and in ways that are accessible and clear to everyone.
    1. Consent documents will be clear and to the point so that anyone can understand what they are agreeing to.
    1. The intellectual property that is taken from our communities belongs to our community.

    *Equity: Providing the structure, tools, respect, and support needed to give each member the same opportunity to succeed. Working for equity also means identifying and fighting forces and systems that limit opportunities and outcomes.

    I hope this helps!


  • May 15, 2019 | 10:34 a.m.

    Hi Marilu, I find a lot of the details you mention in this response intriguing. I'm always curious about using arts in meaningful ways to engage in science storytelling and as alternative ways to communicate research results. Are there places to see some of the outcomes you mention (examples of the posters, etc)? Are you communicating results in more standard academic/scientific communities? (Obviously, I understand this showcase could be considered a good example, though obviously there may be a diverse audience!). In those cases, how are you choosing to talk about this work?


  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 16, 2019 | 03:00 p.m.

    Hi Carrie,

    Thank you for watching our video! From the beginning of our work it was clear that academic language was a barrier between the institution and the communities in a collaboration. When the ICBOs began their strand of research, we wanted to communicate in ways we could be inclusive and understood by anyone in our communities. The arts have overcome any barrier and have universal reach, are welcoming and provide creative ways of expression that can reach more people of all backgrounds and bring attention to what we want to communicate.

    You can find some examples on our blog: https://power30icbos.blogspot.com/

    -Inequitable Collaborations: the need for full access: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RqTg_goY24

    -Walking on Eggshells, visually explained: https://power30icbos.blogspot.com/2019/03/walki...

    -Our posters: https://power30icbos.blogspot.com/search/label/...



  • Icon for: Cara Duncan

    Cara Duncan

    Graduate Student
    May 13, 2019 | 12:20 p.m.

    Community involvement, right from the beginning, in research is invaluable! You have identified (perhaps fostered) an engaged core of community members. How did you identify these community members? And what was the process for co-creating the research project? Thank you!

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    May 13, 2019 | 02:19 p.m.

    Hi Nikki, 

    We agree that community involvement from the very beginning is invaluable. This is a community-led project, and we have been working together for approximately five years. We've created a framework to guide our research and our decision-making. We are in the first year of the project and are in the midst of co-creating! We meet weekly and primarily focus on process. 

  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 13, 2019 | 11:26 p.m.

    Thanks, Karen. I would also like to add that we met the community researchers years ago through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen science project Celebrate Urban Birds (CUBs). It all started when they got a mini-grant award from CUBs to create an event in their community and participate in the citizen science project. That was the beginning of the relationship. Years later, when we got an NSF award for a collaborative research project, we brought a group of those community members as advisors to the project. A year later, feeling that academic language was a barrier that made communities feel studied and did not provide meaningful access to the research or that they could use, in a practical way, in their communities, they began their own strand of research using community-based participatory research and grounded theory approaches.

    The process for co-creating the research project includes meeting several times a month and staying in touch. We also hold in-person meetings at least twice a year. The decisions are made collectively and we strive to make sure every voice is heard. To accomplish this, we use different ways to make sure everyone is heard. We also follow the Jemez Principles and our working agreements.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Catherine Pham
  • May 13, 2019 | 01:36 p.m.

    I am interested in the framework that you developed - What are the non-negotiables that were identified and how does attending to them play out in practice?

  • Icon for: Karen Purcell

    Karen Purcell

    May 13, 2019 | 02:44 p.m.

    Our framework guides our research and decision-making and our Community Review Board of Project Non-negotiables and Working Agreements help guide our process.

    We developed these in our in-person meetings and worked together to come to common understandings of what these terms mean. It's a process!

    We feel that it is important for us to review and adjust these agreements and non-negotiables over time and depending on context.

  • Icon for: Jake Foster

    Jake Foster

    May 13, 2019 | 03:19 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing an overview of your work. This is an important topic. I've been following related discussions about indigenous knowledge in the science education research community, and see similar discussions about how different types of knowledge can be recognized and valued, and how to include and protect a community's knowledge.

    I appreciate the link above, provided by Karen, to the project non-negotiables. Like Camellia, I am very interested in the framework that you have developed. How is your framework built off of, or different from, models of Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR)? Or more specifically, how does your framework attend to or focus on under-served communities?

  • Icon for: Makeda Cheatom

    Makeda Cheatom

    Lead Presenter
    Founder / Executive Director
    May 14, 2019 | 05:59 a.m.

    Greetings Jake,


    Thanks for your interest in our research. My name is Makeda and I'm the Executive Director of the WorldBeat Cultural Center in San Diego, CA. I am one of the community leaders representing underserved communities throughout the USA that has been participating in the project. We call ourselves Independent Community Based Organizations (IBCOs). Our research has been co-created from the beginning. Together we created the survey that we shared amongst 30 community organizations to better understand the challenges in fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM research. Together we analyzed the data, named the results, and created a workbook to guide both Informal Science Educators and Community Based Organizations through their collaborations. Most recently in the last 2 years, we've presented our results and workbooks throughout various conferences throughout the nation. Now we are putting these results into practice on a noise pollution project where four of us are co-principle investigators. Each of our respective communities also has participating Community Science Collaborators as key players in the project where they are co-creating the noise pollution app so that its relevant to everyone. Being authors and presenters of our own research has empowered us and our communities. We have all adopted or implemented our research and values in our own unique way into our organizations and collaborations.

    In our research, we found that Power and Privilege and Trust and Transparency are key themes that come up when trying to understand collaborations between Informal Science Institutions and Community Based Organizations. Community Based Organizations felt used by the dominant culture institutions coming into their communities and 'using' them for grants and research. Many communities feel that in their collaborations they were being 'studied' with no benefit for them in the long run and that's one of the problems that creates mistrust. Research participants from underserved communities did not have access to grant writers, developers, foundations like the dominant culture institutions. This is what constitutes Power and Privilege. Having a commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is necessary to have meaningful collaborations between Informal Science Educators and Community Based Organizations.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 14, 2019 | 09:19 a.m.

    Thanks, Makeda! Like Makeda mentioned, the framework came from the community, not from dominant culture literature, therefore, its focus is to benefit underserved communities and it is guiding our current project.

  • Icon for: Breanne Litts

    Breanne Litts

    May 14, 2019 | 12:48 p.m.

    Thank you so much for sharing this work! What a great project. I know this work will be so inspirational to many!

    I'm curious to know more about how the project got started. I find some of the tensions outlined in this work is that the researchers still initiate the project idea. I get the sense your story is different. Can you share more about that? 

    I also wonder what sort of insights you could provide to others who want to initiate or are currently engaging in this work. In addition to the framework you share above, what has your team learned so far? How have you been able to ensure that the project remains rooted in a true partnership rather than communities feeling "studied" as Makeda mentions above. 

    This video is done really well, too! I love all the voices represented throughout the video while still feeling cohesive. 

  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 14, 2019 | 02:43 p.m.

    HI Breanne,

    Thank you for watching our video. The ICBOs lead this work because we are frustrated by academic language, lack of access to funding and networks, and feeling we have no voice in the sciences. Over the years we have felt studied by science institutions and funding agencies that we feel do not provide meaningful access to research that we could use, in a practical way, in our communities. We began our work using community-based participatory research and grounded theory approaches because of our frustration with the sciences and scientific institutions.
    The process for co-creating the research project is not easy. It means having many meetings (virtually and in -person) and really focusing on process. We are learning each step of the way. The decisions are made collectively and we strive to make sure every voice is heard. Everyone contributes something different and when we bring it all together – it works! It’s messy, and beautiful.
    In choosing the focus of our work in this NSF award, we talked about issues of interest and concern within our communities. We all agreed that noise pollution was a theme that we wanted to explore. We began gathering existing information and learning about the topic and  began co-creating the proposal that ultimately was awarded by the NSF. 

  • Icon for: Catherine Pham

    Catherine Pham

    K-12 Teacher
    May 16, 2019 | 12:08 p.m.

    Hi everyone, I'm Catherine, and I am one of the community researchers who is part of the ICBO (independent community based organizations) group.  As Marilu said, many of us in our group originally interacted with Cornell because we had received mini-grants through the awesome Celebrate Urban Birds program.  Go CUBS!  (https://celebrateurbanbirds.org).  We're from all parts of the U.S. (and now Mexico) and while our agencies do really different kinds of work (youth, bilingual elementary school, theater for kids, cultural center, homeless services, mental health, community gardening, and many more), as we got to know each other more we found that we had really common experiences when working with larger science institutions and universities.  So in addition to other pieces of work we were doing, we decided to join forces, do research, and create the workbook that Makeda describes above.  (Really!  Click the link on Makeda's May 14 post - our workbook is AWESOME!).  I'm not sure how to answer all of the questions above, but I will say that for myself, I joined this project initially because I believe that everyone (in my case, including people who lived outside, people who have mental health issues, and people from underserved communities) should have access to science and can contribute in a meaningful way.  Our group has done our research with a lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion and has produced powerful results.  Please take a look at our materials and know we are happy to answer your questions, whether from a research or "boots on the ground" perspective.  Thanks!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • May 16, 2019 | 05:43 p.m.

    Fantastic project! So many levels of engagement. 

  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 20, 2019 | 06:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Rebecca!

  • Icon for: Bobby Wilson

    Bobby Wilson

    May 17, 2019 | 04:48 p.m.

    Progress is our most important product


    It is through the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the National Science Foundation (NSF) that change is on its way.

    Four community leaders are now Co Principal Investigators ( CO-PI’s ) of a national science project called “noise pollution”. This is a major change for the four CO-PI’s that are community based and to the best of my knowledge, this is a major change for the NSF. As CO-PI’s we are working diligently to make sure that our community voices are heard and that this research will have a positive impact upon each one of our communities, NSF as well as the CO-PI’s.

    Join us in this most important product “positive change”.

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 20, 2019 | 06:53 p.m.

    Thanks, Bobby. Indeed, a very important step to see community leaders as Co-Principal Investigators. Looking forward to seeing more community voices elevated in other projects like the ones in this showcase!

  • Icon for: Jomo Mutegi

    Jomo Mutegi

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2019 | 07:22 p.m.

    Marilu, I love the non-negotiables you shared. Excellent work!

  • Icon for: Marilu Lopez Fretts

    Marilu Lopez Fretts

    May 20, 2019 | 06:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Jomo! It is an honor to be working with this amazing group.

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