New Plymouth kick-off meeting to establish the new national association: CSAANZ

A group of nearly 20 citizen science practitioners, researchers, educators, coordinators, developers, movers and shakers gathered on Aug 10 in New Plymouth to formalise the Citizen Science Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (CSAANZ, #CitSciNZ for short). A celebratory launch is planned for the near future. This blog forms part of an emerging kaupapa for the fledgling association: sharing information through transparent processes.

Participants travelled from as far as Dunedin and Whangarei, contributing their expertise to shape the preliminary direction and structure of the new Association. Establishing a Citizen Science Association in this country connects NZ to a vibrant, global movement. In a few short years, Citizen Science Associations, ForaPartnerships and Networks have spread across EuropeUSAAustraliaAsia and Africa supporting the field e.g., through planning, education, policy and research.

Establishing a solid foundation

The inaugural CSAANZ meeting built on the many citizen science workshops that have taken place over the last c.4 years around the country (starting with a pilot workshop in 2015, a Coastal and Marine workshop in 2016, and a series of #CitSciNZ Working Group meetings 2016 – 2018). Over this time there was very little change in the themes/topics that emerged either as issues or opportunities. An important aspect of the inaugural meeting was the formal adoption of the CSAANZ objectives (outlined below), which have been developed and refined through a series of enagement events over the previous year.

World cafes: Exploring CSAANZ structure and role

Following a round of introductions and a brief discussion on the draft CSAANZ constitution by meeting coordinator Shane Orchard (CSAANZ co-chair, University of Canterbury & MAIN Trust), participants joined in for two lively world café sessions. In all, six key topics were debated, elaborated and documented as participants moved around the tables. A solid foundation has now been established upon which to collectively move forward with a high degree of onsensus on the importance of key topics. This was an important outcome of the meeting and reinforces findings from the 2018 National Citizen Science Symposium #CitSciNZ2018 and the resulting 5 Actions to Progress Citizen Science in NZ.

Defining Citizen Science

As with previous meetings, almost all participants’ work focussed on the environment. Given the broad scope of citizen science internationally e.g., into human health and disaster management, a definition needs to be developed that reflects the NZ context and culture while broadly aligning to international definitions. This task was begun via the Think Tank with a draft White Paper being produced that the CSAANZ committee can now build on.

A comment was made that mātauranga Māori is sometimes incorporated into science but this could equally could be reversed: science can be brought into Matauranga Māori, i.e. into what has already been observed over centuries by tangata whenua.

Data collection and sharing

Three key themes emerged in this topic:

  • Protocols and standards: guidelines, the need for effective data visualisation, data formatting ownership, data sharing agreements, Māori and traditional knowledge, privacy concerns along with Creative Commons licensing
  • Training for gathering data and disseminating data at both professional and community levels; how to set up and deliver a project.
  • Engaging the public more closely with the data collection and management (while also acknowledging differing levels of interest)

Managing and sustaining the CSAANZ

As with all small associations, trusts and societies, efficiency is central. Every participant in the room wore multiple hats, so it’s unrealistic to expect the Association to achieve its national objectives on a purely voluntary level. Ensuring the association is resilient and functions well requires resourcing and a funded coordinator. A core committee will prioritise ‘big topics’ and additional contributions will be made by working groups to ensure opportunities for practitioners to get involved. Goals will need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound. At the same time, leaders will need to be identified for key roles within the sector as a whole so that not all falls to CSAANZ to shoulder! Part of the funding discussion centred on developing a social enterprise model to support the CSAANZ to lessen the reliance on contestable sources.

In the next steps, communication strategies for the association (i.e. between committees, working groups and members) will be developed and put in place to support an important role for the association in brokering relationships between the various interest groups. Stay in touch for more information in near future about membership options and how you can get involved!

Snapshot of the inaugural CSAANZ meeting: a day of discussion and networking

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