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Citizens as monitors - Crowdsourcing for water policy development

Citizens as monitors - Crowdsourcing for water policy development

PhD Candidate: Patrick Bonney

Supervisors: Dr Angela Murphy, Dr Birgita Hansen and Assoc Prof Claudia Baldwin

Research overview

The growth of citizen science as a tool for building repositories of knowledge in catchment management has been paralleled by a clear policy agenda within governments world-wide to proactively drawn on this resource to inform planning and development. Three key factors have been instrumental in this growth: the availability of technical tools for knowledge dissemination and data collection by volunteers; the realisation of the potential for citizens to provide skills and knowledge of benefit in a decreasing funding environment; and, the emerging ideological commitment to collaboration with community as active participants in knowledge building and strategy implementation.

In the field of regional catchment management in Australia, citizen science is increasingly viewed as being integral to government policy planning. This approach reflects a global movement of inclusion of citizen science as a legitimate tool for natural resource management. Despite these conceptual shifts, national and international literature continues to track varying levels of success in citizen science-driven data collection, utilisation, program evaluation and reporting/knowledge dissemination. Limited use of citizen scientist gathered data, disengagement of citizen scientists over time and poor integration of citizen scientist built knowledge with data collected and collated by academics and government flag shortfalls in the alignment between policy and practice.

This PhD will explore the points of divergence between citizen scientist engagement in the Waterwatch and EstuaryWatch programs and the water management policy and research agenda. The development of a model for engagement will result in online technology that maximises the use and reporting of citizen science for data discovery and long term sustainability of citizen science lead initiatives, while minimising divergence and disengagement of citizen scientists.

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