Citizen science in radiation research
1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala University, Sweden
2 Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden
3 Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology, Swedish Agricultural University
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Published online: 30 September 2020
A growing trend in science is that research institutions reach out to members of the public for participating in research. The reasons for outreach are many, spanning from the desire to collect and/or analyse large sets of data efficiently, to the idea of including the general public on a very fundamental level in science-making and ultimately decision-making. The presented project is curriculum-based and carried out in 240 lower secondary school classes (pupils of age 13-16). The task, as designed by the participating universities, is to collect mushrooms, soil and animal droppings from different parts of Sweden, do preliminary sample preparation and analyses and send the samples to the university institutions for radioactivity measurement. Behind the project is a desire to compare today’s levels of 137Cs with those deposited right after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, but also to study the exchange of caesium between organisms as well as the impacts of biological and geological processes on uptake and retention. The scientific outcome is a geodatabase with the 137Cs activity (Bq/m2) present in the Swedish environment, where radioactivity data can be linked to the species (fungi, competing species, animals foraging), forest type, land type, land use and other environmental factors. The science question is of interest to the general public as foraging for mushrooms, as well as spending recreational time in forests is widely popular in Sweden. In this article, we will discuss the current status of the project and the observations we have made about how well the public can participate in scientific research. Focus will be on organization of the project, such as logistics, preparation of supportive material, feedback and communication between researchers and schools. We will present observations about the impact the project has had on the participants, based on quantitative and qualitative evaluations.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2020
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