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Citizen Science Association: Free Membership and Community Involvement

Written by Lyn Slater on . Posted in Association


Did you watch the premiere of Fox’s new revamp of the science-based show “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” recently? The show, along with the extremely popular Facebook page with the NSFW name, “I F***ing Love Science”, has brought science into the mainstream. This cultural shift is just in time for the launch of a new association that is itself somewhat less than mainstream in a number of interesting ways.

The Citizen Science Association (CSA) was launched this month as a collaborative project of National Geographic and the Woodrow Wilson Center. Its mission is to promote appreciation and widespread study of science, as well as encouraging collaboration between the scientific community and non-scientists. A worthy goal at a time when the study of science seems to make news every now and then as the debate surrounding science vs theology teachings in public schools continues to crop up.

So, who will join this new citizen-based association? Anyone interested, as it turns out, because thanks to financial support from sponsors, Citizen Science Association is beginning by offering free membership to its initial membership base. Will this be the beginning of a new member recruitment trend?

According to coverage in Associations Now:

“‘Whether organizers are scientists, educators, data managers, technology specialists, evaluators, or enthusiastic volunteers, the CSA welcomes those who want to benefit from a network based on the diverse practices of citizen science,’ the association said in a statement.

CSA is still in its formative stages, but it has identified six organizational goals:

  • Establish a global community of practice for citizen science

  • Advance the field of citizen science through innovation and collaboration

  • Promote the value and impact of citizen science

  • Provide access to tools and resources that further best practice

  • Support communication and professional development services

  • Foster diversity and inclusion within the field

CSA is already accepting submissions for its journal, which will be published with open access at a yet-to-be-determined date. The free inaugural memberships will allow members who join before March 15 to vote on draft vision and mission statements.”

The free membership launch is not necessarily unique—certainly there are numerous associations that offer free memberships. However, those groups usually also feature a paid membership option that offers far more benefits. It seems for now that CSA will be free of charge for all, without offering a paid option with more “perks”. Additionally, the CSA is promoting an environment of inclusiveness and group collaboration, perhaps in keeping with the spirit of the mission of the organization for scientists and lay people alike to work together to reach a greater understanding.

Indeed, one of the primary benefits of early membership in the Citizen Science Association is the ability to help shape the group’s vision. Members will be given the opportunity to vote on the association’s initial mission statement, giving the organization a sense of community. Other associations may do well to keep an eye on the success of this idea, and take steps to work on the inclusiveness and community within their own membership.

Will more associations begin offering free memberships, or offering temporary free offers to potential members as a method of meeting recruitment goals? How will CSA’s commitment to community involvement influence other groups to be more open to suggestions from their members? Let us know what you think in the comments!



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Lyn Slater

Carolyn (Lyn) is taking a walk on the wild side after spending nearly 20 years in the nonprofit/association world. She likes to refer to herself as a Wordsmith or, sometimes, Wordsmythe – when she’s feeling artisanal. Lyn truly believes in the magic of words and puts that belief to work every day, writing, editing, and sometimes indulging in social media at Abila. Originally from Oxford in the UK, but now a long-time resident of the U.S. she has retained that delightfully (or so she thinks) annoying habit of finding humor in every situation. Off-duty habits and interests include gardening, reading, recreational writing, baking and pretty much whatever her two dogs tell her to do.

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