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may 2017
© 2017 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
A PeoPle’s science
Nicholas R. Record
Times can change quickly. It’s easy to wake up
one morning suddenly asking, Whatever hap-
pened to wobbly antennas on cell phones? Or,
Where’s “Ask Jeeves”? Or even, Why is the US
federal government now hostile to the founda-
tions of scientific research?
That last question in particular has caught
many of us off guard. Scientists have recently
written about concerns such as funding cuts
(Gewin 2017), gag orders (American Association
for the Advancement of Science 2017) and the
proliferation of false information (Williamson
2016). Earth Science is especially vulnerable
to politics because of links to climate change
and environmental regulations. The threat to
point NASA satellites away from Earth stands
out among many proposals to undermine Earth
Science and science in general.
The scientific community has responded
quickly. The courage to stand up for science, to
engage policy makers, and to protest is essen-
tial to preserving the freedom of inquiry and
the objectivity that underpin great science.
Along those lines, the strategies that many
have described (e.g., Goldman et al. 2017; Voss
and Sponberg 2017, and others in this issue)
are important contributions. Overcoming the
threats to our current Earth Science model is an
objective we should all be working toward. The
purpose of this column is not to question that
premise, but to ask another question: What if it
doesn’t work?
Every once in a while, politicians do just
what they’ve promised. In this case, whether it’s
building a border wall, repealing healthcare, or
humiliating celebrities, it looks like the admin-
istration will try its hardest to follow through
on its proposals. There is a very real possibil-
ity that, despite deploying the best strategies
for engaging with policy makers, Earth Science
research could be severely eroded. Even if Cali-
fornia launches its own satellite, the gutting
of federally supported Earth Science research
would leave a gaping hole.
Today, the strongest traditions of science are
underpinned by strong national government
support. And yet—and maybe this is because
I’m American—there is a tiny libertarian elf
inside me that sometimes pipes out, “If science
is so great, does it really need the government’s
help?” This is more than a theoretical question.
Efforts by groups like DataRefuge to backup
satellite data on private and international serv-
ers are a stark reminder of the reality. It might
come to pass that we are faced with very prag-
matic questions, such as: In the absence of fed-
eral support, what science can we do?
When I think about this question in terms of
Earth Science, it boils down to this: How can we
monitor climate change, pollution, and environ-
mental changes in the absence of government
funding? I focus on monitoring because of the
scale of the challenge, and because it underpins
our understanding of Earth systems. It’s hard
to imagine replacing, for example, satellite
monitoring of surface temperatures, but that
difficulty is part of what makes it interesting.
Answering questions like these truly requires
innovation, ingenuity, and scientific creativity.
Some pieces already exist. Those engaged in
citizen science have seen how putting technol-
ogy in the hands of citizens can produce synop-
tic measurements over large spatial scales. This
approach is even being used to monitor Arctic
sea ice (Smart 2017). Civic science takes this idea
one step further, deliberately bringing citizens
together around a problem to foster discourse.
Civic science could be one part of the equa-
tion; another is the networking of information.
Drivers using the Waze app have become mobile-
networked measurement devices, transforming
road maps into living changing things, and mak-
ing helicopter traffic reports all but obsolete.
Weather Underground, though it currently relies
on the National Weather Service, has networked
100,000 personal weather stations.
Many technologies could be leveraged to
these ends, from phones to drones to still-
unknowns. The point of these examples is not
to say the problem has been solved—far from
it. There are still drawbacks to civic science,
such as bias and data quality concerns (Con-
rad and Hilchey 2011). None of these examples
gives the coverage of satellites, drifters, or
other monitoring platforms. But the examples
do suggest a possible way forward—namely,
putting science in the hands of The People.
Climate change, environmental degradation,
pollution—these disproportionately affect vul-
nerable populations and pose health and safety
risks. The ability for people to gather, share,
and tap into information on sea level rise and
flooding, pathogens in food or drinking water,
and other potential risks could make for a
backup system to a weakening of government
agency monitoring and regulation. In other
words, with the right tools and networks, peo-
ple who cannot rely on government agencies to
monitor risks can be empowered to take moni-
toring into their own hands.
There is another important benefit to put-
ting science in the hands of The People. It
exposes a wider audience to the importance of
and thought process behind science, and gives
them a stake in an arena that is often restricted
to scientific experts and policy makers. This
engagement can help to counter mistrust of
science and mistrust of science-based policy
where other more combative tactics have fallen
short (Cohen 2016). Civic science helps to
ensure that citizens are informed actors in sci-
ence-policy conversations (Bäckstrand 2003). A
science-friendly public should eventually result
in a science-friendly government.
It is often said that in struggle there is
opportunity. The opportunities here include
the development of new technologies and sci-
entific approaches to monitoring, and to bet-
ter engage and empower the populace. It’s a
chance to build a stronger and more flexible
system of Earth monitoring. Below are a few
steps that start us down that path.
Find ways to put your science into the hands
of The People. Empower citizens to monitor
their environment, tap into data sources, and
contribute to scientific knowledge. Design tools
that everyone can use, such as the foldable
paper microscope (Cybulski et al. 2014), or the
Biomeme two3, which will soon enable people
to make PCR measurements with their smart-
Build on motivation. It is important to
understand the needs and interests of peo-
ple rather than simply asking them to make
measurements (Smart 2017). There are certain
groups of people who are particularly motivated
to monitor some aspect of their environment—
whether it’s toxins in drinking water, harmful
algal blooms, sea level, sea ice, etc. Use these
groups as starting points toward larger visions.
Build networks. To maintain engagement,
information flow should not be unidirectional.
There is a range of models, from social digital
platforms like iNaturalist or Vital Signs, to the
face-to-face networking of people—such as the
Nippon Foundation-POGO Centres of Excellence,
which are building networks for ocean moni-
toring in developing countries. The keys are
(1) that there is a maintained multidirectional
2may 2017
exchange of information between people mak-
ing the measurements, and (2) that people have
access to the results of the research.
Develop algorithms. Some of the weaknesses
of citizen-provided data include those of data
quality and experimental design (Conrad and
Hilchey 2011). A promising area of ongoing
research is the development of statistical meth-
ods and algorithms for dealing with limited,
sporadic, or biased data.
Teach how to teach. It is a significant chal-
lenge to build a sustaining long-term monitor-
ing system, particularly during uncertain times.
One possible solution is to design a system that
can proliferate on its own. Equip people with
the ability both to do the science and to teach
the science.
Building a People’s Science will have far
reaching benefits for our democracy regardless
of the current political landscape. We hope
that the most dire predictions do not come
to pass. We hope that, like in the past, fed-
eral efforts to suppress science are success-
fully countered (Shulman 2004). But times can
change quickly.
When satellites first started sending back
images of the Earth’s surface, so much was
revealed that it was like turning on a great light
in a dark room. If that light is turned off again—
for any reason—we need to have a crowd of
hands ready to hold up lighters in the dark.
This manuscript was inspired by conversations
at the congress of the People’s Institute for Sci-
ence of the Future.
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Nicholas R. Record,
... There are many examples of significant misconduct, such as (among others) the citation of non-contributing authors (Fong and Wilhite, 2017;McNutt et al., 2018;Petersen et al., 2019;Smith et al., 2019;Wilhite et al., 2019;Sweedler, 2019;Chawla, 2019) and the absence of citation that is due (Garfield, 1980;Trevors and Saier, 2008). The general public has become increasingly aware of what constitutes good scientific practice and the performance of scientists is under its scrutiny (Koch, 2016;Goldman et al., 2017;Record, 2017). To resolve this and meet the exacting standards we set ourselves, environmental studies must be irreproachable (Zoller, 2000;Antoniadis et al., 2019;Voulvoulis and Burgman, 2019). ...
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There have been numerous environmental geochemistry studies using chemical, geological, ecological, and toxicological methods but each of these fields requires more subject specialist rigour than has generally been applied so far. Field-specific terminology has been misused and the resulting interpretations rendered inaccurate. In this paper, we propose a series of suggestions, based on our experience as teachers, researchers, reviewers, and editorial board members, to help authors to avoid pitfalls. Many scientific inaccuracies continue to be unchecked and are repeatedly republished by the scientific community. These recommendations should help our colleagues and editorial board members, as well as reviewers, to avoid the numerous inaccuracies and misconceptions currently in circulation and establish a trend towards greater rigour in scientific writing.
... Managing the growth of the aquaculture industry in this rapidly changing system will be a challenge, and careful monitoring of pathogens will be critical. Expanding to the marine field (Record, 2017) "People's science" using highly-portable technology to perform DNAbased identification (Marx, 2015) can contribute to the growing knowledge base of the distribution and diversity of microbial pathogens in the marine and complement other well establish techniques (e.g., histopathology) that inform about the presence of the pathogen and the health status of the oysters. ...
Shellfish aquaculture (in particular oyster cultivation) has the potential to play a significant role in refreshing the coastal economy in the state of Maine (USA). Although ocean warming and acidification are often listed as the primary manifestations of climate change in the marine environment, the issue of expanding geographic ranges of parasites and pathogens is an equally serious threat to shellfish populations. Protozoan parasites of the genera Bonamia, Haplosporidium, and Perkinsus, the bacterial pathogen responsible for Roseovarius oyster disease, and the disease condition is known as disseminated neoplasia are currently recognized as some of the significant threats to natural and farmed bivalve populations. We have analyzed the peer-reviewed literature for reports of these pathogens/conditions in Maine. Most reports focus on oysters from the Damariscotta River Estuary and are the result of directed studies into the biology of a particular pathogen rather than the result of intensive monitoring programs. The sampling effort could be interpreted in several ways including; the pathogens/conditions not impacting the annual harvest to any great extent due to limited distribution of the causative agent, the oysters developing a tolerance to the diseases, or just a lack of resources directed at studying this topic. With the shellfish aquaculture industry expected to grow in the next several decades, we recommend that a rigorous and sustained survey of parasitic diseases and believe that such an effort is fundamental to the success, resilience, and well-being of Maine's shellfish aquaculture industry.
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With the new Donald J. Trump Administration comes uncertainty in the role that science will play in the U.S. federal government. Early indications that the Administration plans to distort or disregard science and evidence, coupled with the chaos and confusion occurring within federal agencies, now imperil the effectiveness of our government. Evidence from the past 20 years demonstrates that, when faced with such threats, supporters of science can take steps to protect the integrity of science in the federal policymaking process. The scientific community will need to connect science-informed policy to positive outcomes and staunchly defend scientific freedom. It must also spotlight political interference in science-based policy development and be prepared to protect scientists—both within and outside the government—against executive or legislative overreach. A range of scientific integrity and transparency policies across federal agencies provides critical tools but must be enforced and protected.
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Scientists should challenge online falsehoods and inaccuracies — and harness the collective power of the Internet to fight back, argues Phil Williamson.
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Here we describe an ultra-low-cost origami-based approach for large-scale manufacturing of microscopes, specifically demonstrating brightfield, darkfield, and fluorescence microscopes. Merging principles of optical design with origami enables high-volume fabrication of microscopes from 2D media. Flexure mechanisms created via folding enable a flat compact design. Structural loops in folded paper provide kinematic constraints as a means for passive self-alignment. This light, rugged instrument can survive harsh field conditions while providing a diversity of imaging capabilities, thus serving wide-ranging applications for cost-effective, portable microscopes in science and education.
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The essay reviews the notion of "civic science" in global environmental governance and how it is articulated in international relations, science studies, democratic theory and sustainability science. Civic science is used interchangeably with participatory, citizen, stakeholder and democratic science, which are all catch words that signify various attempts to increase public participation in the production and use of scientific knowledge. Three rationales for civic science are identified: restoring public trust in science, re-orienting science towards coping with the complexity of environmental problems and installing democratic governance of science. A central proposition is that the promotion of civic science needs to be coupled with a theoretical understanding of its institutional, normative and epistemological challenges. The science-politics interface needs to be reframed to include the triangular interaction between scientific experts, policy-makers and citizens. Copyright (c) 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A social-media professional calls on researchers to speak out for their science.
Worldwide, decision-makers and nongovernment organizations are increasing their use of citizen volunteers to enhance their ability to monitor and manage natural resources, track species at risk, and conserve protected areas. We reviewed the last 10 years of relevant citizen science literature for areas of consensus, divergence, and knowledge gaps. Different community-based monitoring (CBM) activities and governance structures were examined and contrasted. Literature was examined for evidence of common benefits, challenges, and recommendations for successful citizen science. Two major gaps were identified: (1) a need to compare and contrast the success (and the situations that induce success) of CBM programs which present sound evidence of citizen scientists influencing positive environmental changes in the local ecosystems they monitor and (2) more case studies showing use of CBM data by decision-makers or the barriers to linkages and how these might be overcome. If new research focuses on these gaps, and on the differences of opinions that exist, we will have a much better understanding of the social, economic, and ecological benefits of citizen science.
Scientific integrity in policymaking: An investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science. Union of Concerned Scientists
  • S Shulman
Shulman, S. 2004. Scientific integrity in policymaking: An investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science. Union of Concerned Scientists. Report.