736 Views
  1. Haley Smith
  2. https://faculty.cnr.ncsu.edu/carencooper/lab-members/
  3. Graduate Research Assistant
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. North Carolina State University
  1. Cooper Cooper
  2. https://faculty.cnr.ncsu.edu/carencooper/
  3. Associate Professor, Leadership in Public Science
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. North Carolina State University
  1. Lincoln Larson
  2. https://faculty.cnr.ncsu.edu/lincolnlarson/
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. North Carolina State University

Understanding the Role of Intermediaries in Citizen Science

NSF Awards: 1713562

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Informal / multi-age, All Age Groups

This video provides an overview of our ongoing research into the roles and motivations of intermediary organizations which facilitate participation in citizen science and have the potential to amplify project, participant, and community outcomes.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (18 posts)
  • Icon for: Laura Larkin

    Laura Larkin

    Facilitator
    Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow
    May 11, 2021 | 04:10 p.m.

    Hi Haley-

    As both a former Girl Scout and Girl Scout Leader, I love the Take Action badge!  What are some other impactful intermediary organizations you've found?  More importantly, how can we promote or support these intermediaries?

    Your research is very interesting and I look forward to learning more.

    Laura Larkin

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 12, 2021 | 10:56 a.m.

    Hello Laura,

    Thanks so much for reaching out! I am also a former Girl Scout, although only participated for a couple years - but really enjoyed the program (and the cookies).

    There are honestly so many examples of intermediaries in citizen science it's hard to make a comprehensive list, but a few other notable categories we are hoping to investigate more include corporate volunteer programs, libraries, and educators (both informal and formal). 

    Regarding how to promote or support these intermediaries - this is a great question and one I hope we'll have a better answer to as our research progresses. For one thing, each case is of course unique, with the goals of both the intermediary and citizen science project varying greatly from case to case. We are hoping our work can help shed more light on some of the overarching challenges and benefits of the shared management of volunteers for citizen science, and therefore indicate some areas for improvement in addressing perceived challenges. 

    For now, we would love to hear from anyone about other unique intermediaries that they are aware of or affiliated with - specifically ones which provide particular benefits to both the intermediary and the citizen science project!

    Please let me know if you have any other questions, and again, thanks for reaching out!

    Best,

    Haley Smith

  • Icon for: Rita Hagevik

    Rita Hagevik

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2021 | 07:50 a.m.

    Would the GLOBE project not be considered an intermediaries or even a grandparent?

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 12, 2021 | 11:04 a.m.

    Hello Rita- that's a great question!

    From my understanding of the GLOBE program and projects, I wouldn't necessarily consider GLOBE itself to be an intermediary since it is bringing participants in to contribute to its own, in-house projects (the GLOBE Observer suite of projects). But you are right in that it is kind of this "grandparent" or "umbrella" entity which facilitates many different projects and collaboration among observers, educators, and researchers.

    However, I might think of educators who bring students to the GLOBE projects as intermediaries in that they have their own set of learning goals and outcomes for their students, but also facilitate participation in citizen science through the GLOBE program.

    I hope that makes sense, and please let me know if you have any additional thoughts or questions!

  • Icon for: Sasha Palmquist

    Sasha Palmquist

    Senior Manager of Community
    May 13, 2021 | 11:09 a.m.

    As a life-long member of the GirlScouts, I really appreciate the inclusion of that organization in this research :-)

    In addition, the choice to use a case study in this video to illustrate the importance of case studies as a methodology for this research question was an elegant solution to address the limited time available to introduce your work. Like Rita, I am also interested to hear more about your working definition of an intermediary. Based on your response above and the examples provided in the video, it sounds like an intermediary could be an experience, a person, a place, and or a designed learning context/ environment. Is my interpretation accurate? 
    This work reminds me of Brigid Barron's focus on the role of parents learning partners http://life-slc.org/docs/barron-parentsaslearni... particularly the roles of "learning broker" and "resource provider". How would you position the work described in the video in relation to Barron's? I look forward to hearing your perspective on these questions and learning more about this exciting learner centered project. 

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 13, 2021 | 04:09 p.m.

    Hi Sasha, 

    Thanks so much for your engaging and insightful comment! I have read a little bit of Barron's work before but hadn't actually considered it in the context of intermediaries before. You bring up a wonderful point that individuals in a way can act as intermediaries, or certainly facilitators of some kind. A lot of our conceptualization of intermediaries up to this point has come more out of the volunteer management literature and we have primarily considered organizations, institutions, or programs which bring (typically groups of) people to participate in citizen science.

    Our work is very much still ongoing, and you have introduced an important perspective to consider as we continue to explore the landscape of engagement with citizen science, and whether individuals do fit within our concept of intermediaries or are perhaps a separate but adjacent path to citizen science! 

    Please see my response to Brian, below, for some more of my thoughts on individuals as intermediaries.

    Best,

    Haley

  • Icon for: Jill McGowan

    Jill McGowan

    Graduate Student
    May 13, 2021 | 11:35 a.m.

    Hi Haley, 

    I am curious to hear about other intermediaries you've chosen for your case studies. I had no idea that there were video games promoting citizen science! 
    Thanks! 

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 16, 2021 | 06:55 p.m.

    Hello Jill, and thanks for your question. I agree, the video games as citizen science platforms have been a really amazing development and such an innovative example of an intermediary at work! As mentioned to others, our project is still in its early stages, but we hope to also feature other formal and informal educators, libraries, corporate volunteer programs, and more.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Co-Director
    May 13, 2021 | 01:15 p.m.

    Very interesting research!  How do (human) intermediaries come to take that role?  For example, Girl Scout leaders (like many peope working in "informal" settings like community groups, museums, etc. ) don't necessarily know much science.  This can inhibit their involvement, or limit their value as intermediaries.  But they can learn, and their learning can be supported or scaffolded — but it isn't always.  So how do the successful intermediaries get that way?

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 13, 2021 | 04:53 p.m.

    Hello Brian, and thank you!

    You and Sasha have both hit on an interesting and complex question of where individuals fall within the category of intermediaries. And to answer your last question, as our work progresses we hope to be able to identify some of the common, key characteristics which allow many different types of intermediaries (including individuals such as educators or volunteer leaders) to succeed!

    I do know in the case of the Girl Scouts Think Like a Citizen Scientist badge that there is an extensive badge curriculum which provides guidance through introductory activities introducing girls to the scientific process and scientific reasoning, and an online project portal through SciStarter.org which then helps connect girls to a list of age-appropriate citizen science projects. Because the Girl Scouts (in partnership with SciStarter) have done the legwork to help facilitate this process of engaging in citizen science, we have more considered the organization as a whole to be the intermediary, although of course the Girl Scout leaders play a big role in helping the girls complete the curriculum.

    In other situations, the role of the individual becomes murkier still. For example, whether an educator is an intermediary may depend on whether they introduce students to a specific citizen science project or program, thus directly facilitating student involvement in citizen science, or act indirectly through another intermediary such as a citizen science project hosting platform or other program (for example through a field trip to a local museum where students then do citizen science). Thank you to both you and Sasha for your deep and thought provoking questions, which certainly warrant some additional thought and consideration on our end!

    Best,

    Haley

  • Icon for: Leigh Peake

    Leigh Peake

    Informal Educator
    May 13, 2021 | 02:07 p.m.

    Love this research and the idea of intermediaries. We have a network of classroom teachers who have been using citizen science investigations in their classrooms since ~2009. It occurs to me that we've never named "being an intermediary" in this way as part of their job description, but it would be interesting to do so. To me, it intersects with skills and responsibilities we do talk about, such as brokering youth experiences with science. I wonder if you've leaned on the brokering literature at all in your research? Thanks for providing a new lens through which to think about our work with teachers!

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 13, 2021 | 04:53 p.m.

    Hello Leigh! I am so happy to hear of such a long-term use of citizen science in classrooms! And educators are definitely one key intermediary we are interested in exploring.

    As I mentioned to Sasha, a lot more of our conceptualization of intermediaries had to this point come from the volunteer management literature. In our current view of intermediaries, they bring their own goals or intended outcomes to the table when facilitating participation in citizen science. These goals may be learning outcomes, as in the case of educators, girls scouts, etc., but could also include goals such as contributing to scientific research and medical treatments (as is the goal of Borderlands Science), to improve the environment and wellbeing of local communities (as in the goal for some corporate volunteer programs), etc.

    However, in considering intermediaries who do have specific learning goals, I think as both you and Sasha have suggested, the learning brokerage literature is an area which warrants further exploration on our part. Thanks so much for the suggestion, and glad you also found the intermediary lens useful!

  • Icon for: Lauren Pagano

    Lauren Pagano

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2021 | 11:32 a.m.

    This was a great video! Like many other commenters, I think it's wonderful to see how organizations like the Girl Scouts are getting people involved in everyday science practices. For your work, how has your team built relationships with these intermediaries or encouraged them to participate in your research?

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 16, 2021 | 06:53 p.m.

    Hi Lauren, thanks so much! And such a great question. This project is part of a larger, ongoing research partnership with SciStarter.org, who hosts thousands of citizen science projects, and in particular has built relationships with many existing projects (and project intermediaries!) as affiliate partners. Additionally, our research team is based at NC State University, which has a Citizen Science Campus program which features and supports various projects. Many of our current target intermediaries are an outgrowth of these existing relationships, and so far most have been very interested! We have expressed our interest in featuring their programs, and also our goals of being able to provide insights to promote the success of such programs in the future. 

  • Icon for: Bruce Bukiet

    Bruce Bukiet

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2021 | 01:56 p.m.

    Seems like a valuable project.

    Do you have a sense of whether there is a long term impact on the participants in these citizen science intermediaries as relates to continued pursuance of STEM classes or degrees? Would that be something you'd investigate over time?

    Thanks.

  • Icon for: David Barnes

    David Barnes

    Facilitator
    Associate Executive Director, NCTM
    May 14, 2021 | 09:00 p.m.

    Very interesting! I have to say it looks like there might at least some mathematics in what they are doing through Citizen Science, which intrigues me.  Could you talk about the range of types of intermediaries that you in this work?  One question I have is how do we make these incredible opportunities available and supported for more students.  Is there some something inherent in these activities that do not allow them to be incorporated into more formal learning experiences? 

  • Icon for: Haley Smith

    Haley Smith

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Research Assistant
    May 16, 2021 | 06:45 p.m.

    Hi David, thanks so much for your questions!

    As this is an ongoing project, we have still not finalized the list of intermediaries that we will be highlighting, but in addition to the Girl Scouts and gamified citizen science, our current list includes other formal and informal educators, corporate volunteer programs, libraries, and more. 

    Citizen science has huge potential to contribute to science learning in formal education, and is increasingly being used to provide authentic, hands-on learning experiences to students at a variety of age levels. [See for example: Oberhauser and LeBuhn, 2012, Mitchell et al., 2017 among others]. However, aside from these and a small handful of other references, a lot more of the existing literature has examined citizen science participation among both adults and youth in informal settings, so the potential of citizen science in formal environments isn't currently understood as well. 

    The Citizen Science Association currently has a special collection on Citizen Science in Higher Education in the works, further exploring citizen science in that context, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for that! And while I am far from an expert on the topic, I know one perceived challenge in incorporating citizen science into primary and secondary formal learning environments is curriculum alignment. So one way to facilitate the adoption of citizen science to promote science learning for those age groups can be providing curriculum-aligned lesson plans which make it easier for teachers to incorporate a project into the curriculum.

    This is just one example of the types of challenges and successes we hope to learn more about in the context of these various intermediaries as we continue this work!

  • Icon for: Bridina Lemmer

    Bridina Lemmer

    Facilitator
    Technical Assistance Consultant
    May 18, 2021 | 05:02 p.m.

    So many students are introduced to science learning through intermediary or informal learning settings, especially before middle school. I think a very complementary question, and perhaps a future area of research for you to consider, would be in identifying access (or lack of access) to such intermediary organizations. We have several areas throughout our state with "resource deserts" where even intermediary or informal educational opportunities are essentially non-existent. Your work here could certainly influence the expansion of such programs into those locations. 

     

    Great work, and I look forward to hearing more about your work!

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