Historically, the majority of programming, evaluation, and research on citizen science has been led by academic institutions, frameworks, and approaches. Even when following culturally responsive techniques, this work has been informed by the world views and influence of dominant culture.
In view of the growing mistrust of science institutions, as well as the power inequities between these institutions and the community organizations needed to support community-focused projects, these establishment-led approaches rarely work.
The NOISE Project shares a different model of Community Science by centering community perspectives, priorities, and approaches in scientific research. In the project, Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers are working alongside and guided by Independent Community Based Organizations (ICBOs) to co-create equitable processes, research frameworks, working agreements, and non-negotiables for doing research more equitably with communities. Led, designed, and implemented by communities historically excluded from the sciences, this project aims to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in the sciences. The NOISE Project is funded by the National Science Foundation and it seeks to document and self-reflect on the shared co-creation experience of a continental community science project.
Through a collaborative process, the ICBOs pinpointed noise pollution as the focus of their research because of the relevance and impact it has on their communities’ health and well-being. Noise interferes with both human and bird life and the impacts of noise pollution disproportionately affect minoritized communities. The NOISE project intends to generate data that can potentially be used to change policy in neighborhoods where noise may be interfering with human health. ICBOs bring site-specific knowledge to the project, making the research relevant to the needs and priorities of their communities. The ICBOs have ownership of every aspect of the research and can tailor the dissemination of research results to their communities, creating deliverables and activities that share scientific knowledge while centering the realities of community members. This allows both institutional and community researchers to benefit from a reciprocal knowledge exchange; communities benefit from the expertise of scientific researchers, and the institution benefits from the diverse perspectives and experiential knowledge of community.
The NOISE project works actively to combine different ways of knowing and expertise from both community and the traditional sciences. The project believes in the impact of the arts, storytelling, visual media, and community wisdom and centers race and equity.
Together the participating communities have co-created powerful research practices that have led to results that reflect their worldviews and priorities. By valuing non-traditional ways of knowing and doing research the NOISE project offers an engaging experience as issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion are woven into the co-creation of research techniques and processes. The NOISE project offers Community Science an opportunity to change the way that science is done in partnership with community. Our framework and processes require institutional researchers to grapple with the historically oppressive dynamics of scientific collaborations, to challenge the dominant-culture structures that create barriers to inclusive science, to openly confront dynamics of power and privilege within collaborations, and to value community wisdom and expertise as equally valuable to traditional scientific knowledge.
We intend to generate data that can potentially be used to change policy in neighborhoods where noise may be interfering with human health. Our co-created research will include methodologies that have the power to give voice to perspectives that have historically been silenced through traditional research. It can also be used to co-create more appropriate and relevant research metrics for use in future scientific studies.