Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection

Report by the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology: “Citizen science is catalyzing collaboration; new data and information brought about by greater public participation in environmental research are helping to drive a new era of environmental protection. As the body of citizen-generated data and information in the public realm continues to grow, EPA must develop a clear strategy to lead change and encourage action beyond the collection of data. EPA should recognize the variety of opportunities that it has to act as a conduit between the public and key partners, including state, territorial, tribal and local governments; nongovernmental organizations; and leading technology groups in the private sector. The Agency should build collaborations with new partners, identify opportunities to integrate equity into all relationships, and ensure that grassroots and community-based organizations are well supported and fairly resourced in funding strategies.

Key recommendations under this theme:

  • Recommendation 1. Catalyze action from citizen science data and information by providing guidance and leveraging collaboration.
  • Recommendation 2. Build inclusive and equitable partnerships by understanding partners’ diverse concerns and needs, including prioritizing better support for grassroots and community-based partnerships in EPA grantfunding strategies.

Increase state, territorial, tribal and local government engagement with citizen science

The Agency should reach out to tribes, states, territories and local governments throughout the country to understand the best practices and strategies for encouraging and incorporating citizen science in environmental protection. For states and territories looking for ways to engage in citizen science, EPA can help design strategies that recognize the community perspectives while building capacity in state and territorial governments. Recognizing the direct Executive Summary Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection connection between EPA and tribes, the Agency should seek tribal input and support tribes in using citizen science for environmental priorities. EPA should help to increase awareness for citizen science and where jurisdictional efforts already exist, assist in making citizen science accessible through local government agencies. EPA should more proactively listen to the voices of local stakeholders and encourage partners to embrace a vision for citizen science to accelerate the achievement of environmental goals. As part of this approach, EPA should find ways to define and communicate the Agency’s role as a resource in helping communities achieve environmental outcomes.

Key recommendations under this theme:

  • Recommendation 3. Provide EPA support and engage states and territories to better integrate citizen science into program goals.
  • Recommendation 4. Build on the unique strengths of EPA-tribal relationships.
  • Recommendation 5. Align EPA citizen science work to the priorities of local governments.

Leverage external organizations for expertise and project level support

Collaborations between communities and other external organizations—including educational institutions, civic organizations, and community-based organizations— are accelerating the growth of citizen science. Because EPA’s direct connection with members of the public often is limited, the Agency could benefit significantly by consulting with key external organizations to leverage citizen science efforts to provide the greatest benefit for the protection of human health and the environment. EPA should look to external organizations as vital connections to communities engaged in collaboratively led scientific investigation to address community-defined questions, referred to as community citizen science. External organizations can help EPA in assessing gaps in community-driven research and help the Agency to design effective support tools and best management practices for facilitating effective environmental citizen science programs….(More)”.