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Int Public Health J. 2015 Jan;7(1). pii: 13.

Building a co-created citizen science program with gardeners neighboring a superfund site: The Gardenroots case study.

Author information

1
Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, The University of Arizona, Touson, Arizona, United States of America.
2
Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, The University of Arizona, Touson, Arizona, United States of America ; Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Department and The University of Arizona, Touson, Arizona, United States of America.
3
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, The University of Arizona, Touson, Arizona, United States of America.

Abstract

A research project that is only expert-driven may ignore the role of local knowledge in research, give low priority to the development of a comprehensive communication strategy to engage the community, and may not deliver the results of the study to the community in an effective way.

OBJECTIVE:

To demonstrate how a research program can respond to a community research need, establish a community-academic partnership, and build a co-created citizen science program.

METHODS:

A place-based, community-driven project was designed where academics and community members maintained a reciprocal dialogue, and together, we: 1) defined the question for study, 2) gathered information, 3) developed hypotheses, 3) designed data collection methodologies, 4) collected environmental samples (soil, irrigation water, and vegetables), 5) interpreted data, 6) disseminated results and translated results into action, and 7) discussed results and asked new questions.

RESULTS:

The co-created environmental research project produced new data and addressed an additional exposure route (consumption of vegetables grown in soils with elevated arsenic levels). Public participation in scientific research improved environmental health assessment, information transfer, and risk communication efforts. Furthermore, incorporating the community in the scientific process produced both individual learning outcomes and community-level outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS:

This approach illustrates the benefits of a community-academic co-created citizen-science program in addressing the complex problems that arise in communities neighboring a contaminated site. Such a project can increase the community's involvement in risk communication and decision-making, which ultimately has the potential to help mitigate exposure and thereby reduce associated risk.

KEYWORDS:

Arsenic; capacity building; citizen science; community-academic partnership; contaminated sites; environmental exposure assessment; gardening; public participation in scientific research; risk communication

PMID:
25954473
PMCID:
PMC4420190

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