October 30, 2015

Reef Check Invited to the White House to Discuss Citizen Science

From Left: Dr. Alex Dehgan, Conservation X Labs; Dr. Kristen Honey, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Dr. Sylvia Earle; Dr. Daniel Pauly, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia; Dr. Kyle Cavanagh, UCLA; Dr. Jan Freiwald, Reef Check California

By Dr. Jan Freiwald, Reef Check California Director

On September 30, 2015 the White House Office hosted a Citizen Science Forum entitled “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People”. This event brought together scientists, government agencies and citizen science programs to highlight the contributions of citizen science and to discuss how to scale up citizen science in the future. Dr. Jan Freiwald, Director of Reef Check California, was invited to participate in this event and represent Reef Check as an example of a successful, long-running marine citizen science program.

During a forum in the morning, participants of citizen science programs ranging from social justice projects to developers of innovative technology to marine programs, such as Reef Check, presented their approaches. At the forum, the White House Office of Science and Technology Director Dr. John P. Holdren encouraged federal agencies to properly utilize citizen science projects and released a memorandum to federal agencies addressing how to facilitate the use of citizen sciences: Addressing Societal and Scientific Challenges through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing. The National Science Foundation Director Dr. France Cordova announced that citizen science and crowdsourcing will be part of a new NSF priority goal for public participation in STEM research in the coming year and Senator Chris Coon from Delaware introduced a bill called the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 to remove any ambiguity about whether federal agencies can use citizen science.

In the afternoon, participants split into several working groups to discuss how to address challenges and create opportunities for scaling up citizen science and developing closer collaboration between federal agencies and citizen science programs. Having people come together at the White House to discuss and further citizen science at this level is an exciting development and validation of the approach Reef Check has taken to marine conservation issues for almost 20 years.