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RAPID: Collabortive Research: What Makes Lay/Expert Collaborations Succeed?

Introduction This project lays the foundations for a causal analysis of lay/expert collaborative research or citizen science. While the potential of such collaborations to advance knowledge and societal well-being are well known, little is known about what makes them succeed or fail. The PIs propose to bridge this gap by adopting a new approach that goes beyond traditional observational studies. The PIs propose to use mixed methods and an innovative parallel-study design. They will demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by examining the social conditions and processes that produce or forestall transformative, community-driven science in response to the current Gulf oil disaster. In addition, they plan to produce interdisciplinary and socially robust environmental knowledge about the impacts of the disaster by combining the expertise of environmental scientists, social scientists, and Vietnamese-Americans living and working in south Louisiana who bring their deep experiential knowledge of the region?s impacted ecosystems to the scientific work. Intellectual Merits The proposed study is interdisciplinary. It is designed to advance basic social studies of science while simultaneously contributing to the production of socially robust environmental science. It does so in the form of two parallel analyses. The first is a community-driven toxicological study of wetlands contamination; the second is a sociological analysis of the initiation, development, and execution of that collaborative process. Both studies address substantively important problems. The community-driven study will investigate the exposure and impacts of petroleum hydrocarbons on finfish species that are culturally and economically important to Vietnamese-Americans whose livelihoods rely on commercial and subsistence fishing. Working together, residents and scientists will identify and prioritize target species and biological endpoints. The findings of the study will provide sound data that form the basis for hypothesis-driven future research on the long-term ecological impacts of the disaster. The sociological study will investigate the lay/expert collaboration for insight into the causal processes that generate successful citizen science. Potential Broader Impacts The interdisciplinary knowledge produced by this study will aid in scientific efforts to investigate the social and environmental impacts of the oil disaster by capturing time-sensitive social and ecological data that can be used by other natural and social scientists. The community-driven nature of the project and contributions to knowledge production by an underrepresented social group helps ensure that the scientific knowledge will be socially meaningful to Gulf Coast residents and local governments as well state and federal agencies working to mitigate disaster impacts. The project also holds significant educational opportunities. These include opportunities for interdisciplinary exchanges between social and natural scientists, and research training opportunities for undergraduate students and adult non-scientists. The project will also enhance institutional relationships between Tulane and Washington State Universities that bridge regional and public/private divides in the academy. Finally, the proposed study has strong potential to seed an effective and sustainable community-academic network for addressing ecological and environmental health issues in south Louisiana and elsewhere.

Project URL:

Geographic Scope: Southeast Louisiana, principally Orleans and Chalmette Parishes

Status: Complete

Recruiting Volunteers:

Participation Tasks: Site selection and/or description, Specimen/sample collection, Transcription,

Start Date: 2010-09-01

Project Contact:

Federal Government Sponsor:

NSF logo

Other Federal Government Sponsor:

Name of Nonfederal Sponsors: Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation

Project Topic: Disaster response, Education, Food, Health and medicine, Social science,

Intended Outcomes: Programmatic, Research development, Civic and community,