A scientist’s opinion : Interview with Dr Cristina Luís about citizen science

Interview with Dr Cristina Luís, professor in science communication at University of Lisbon. She is part of the NEWSERA project, which aims to use citizen science to improve science communication.

Why are you focussing on citizen science projects for NEWSERA?

Cristina Luis ESMH ScientistCristina Luís: We will be dealing with citizen science and science communication, how they interact with each other, how science communication can be improved through citizen science and how we can also improve science communication within citizen science projects. So it’s really a very interesting connection because many people confuse citizen science with science communication, and in fact citizen science has a lot of science communication. Since citizen science engages a lot of people, non-scientists, in their activities, we figured it was a good way of improving science communication and giving more accurate scientific information to non-scientists.

What is your role in NEWSERA?

Cristina Luís: Our institution will be dealing with career scientists because we are the faculty of sciences. One of the things that we will be involved in is training for scientists in science communication. We will be elaborating some training models, testing them and seeing how they work for researchers in the initial phases.

We know it’s important to do science communication, but many science researchers say that there are a lot of barriers to developing science communication initiatives. So we will also be trying to see what barriers are identified, and how can we break them down.

How will the impact of the new training be measured?

Cristina Luís: We are preparing now the first set of modules for a course. Next year, we’ll be trying it with PhD students from the faculty. It will be a course that will mix science communication with citizen science. We will start by giving a set of three modules to begin with, as an intensive course given throughout an entire week.

Then we will see the feedback from those students and if it worked or not. We will see if it’s possible to adapt to informal training, so we are already defining it in a way that we can put it in an informal training format. The idea is to test it in different contexts, with different audiences and see if it works. [We will use] questionnaires and other methods to see if they feel that they changed their way of seeing science communication or not, through this setting of citizen science.

How has citizen science fared during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Cristina Luís: Regarding citizen science, it was interesting because many projects took the chance to show themselves to society during the pandemic because many people were at home, and some of them didn’t know what to do with their time. It was the chance to show that one thing they can do in their spare time, besides watching Netflix and HBO, is to collaborate with science, and there are many projects where people can give their time if they are willing to.

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