Lab Matters Fall Winter 2021 - Page 5

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER ’ S MESSAGE

Citizen Science : A Brave , Not-so-new World

As the pandemic has progressed , public health laboratories have enjoyed ( so-to-speak ) an elevated profile in the public eye . More and more people are interested in not only what public health laboratories do on a day-to-day basis , but also in how public health laboratories are working to keep them safe . So how do we take this opportunity and continue to educate our communities ?
One component of public health that already exists is the concept of citizen science . Citizen science — also known as community science , volunteer monitoring and public participation in scientific research , among other terms — uses the collective strength and knowledge of the public to gather and analyze data to answer environmental and public health questions .
Answering these questions has long been the responsibility of federal , state , local and tribal agencies and laboratories , but citizen science provides a gateway for the public to do this independently , or to contribute to and collaborate with these and other organizations . Meanwhile , government agencies are recognizing that citizen science can help to maximize resources and community knowledge while expanding public engagement and scientific knowledge . Collaborative citizen science projects can be initiated by either the agency or citizen science groups .
In late 2019 , APHL began working with the US Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) to not only establish guidelines for citizen science groups to follow , but provide guidance on how to collaborate with environmental and scientific professionals to systematically plan , carry out and document their projects using rigorous quality assurance standards .
Using EPA ’ s Handbook for Citizen Science Quality Assurance and Documentation as a foundation , APHL created a toolkit for both citizen science groups and state and local environmental and public health agencies . The toolkit includes a video series , fact sheets and an on-demand webinar that emphasizes how critical it is to provide data that can be used for their intended purpose , with maximum impact .
And given the changes we ’ re seeing in public health laboratories , these citizen science initiatives could become critical to some public health laboratories ’ ability to continue doing their jobs . In a series of listening sessions conducted by APHL ’ s Senior Advisor for Scientific Affairs Dr . Jill Taylor , we heard that while some states are flush with cash and resources , others have had great difficulty getting federally-mandated funds for pandemic response to not only continue responding to COVID-19 , but to also maintain their infrastructure and professional staffing resources .
For many of our members who have been doing this important work for so long , it is yet another wrinkle or obstacle to be ironed out or overcome . And APHL will continue to be a voice for our members , and tell all of your stories where they will make the most impact . But the reality is the public health laboratory landscape has been forever altered in the space of a very short time . The time for our members to just be “ the building on the edge of town where nobody knows what happens ” is over . And , like it or not , we have a great opportunity to partner with communities to get our messages out there and promote advocacy for our work . n
Scott Becker , MS Chief Executive Officer , APHL
Using EPA ’ s Handbook for Citizen Science Quality Assurance and Documentation as a foundation , APHL created a toolkit for both citizen science groups and state and local environmental and public health agencies .”
APHL
Fall / Winter 2021 LAB MATTERS 3