Postdoc: social scientist for research about culture of ethics in citizen science

The College of Natural Resources (CNR) at North Carolina State University invites applications for a postdoctoralresearcher beginning in Spring 2019 (two year appointment; start dates are negotiable, but ideally would be in January). The successful applicant will work under the supervision of Dr. Caren Cooper (Dept. of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University) and Dr. Lisa Rasmussen (Department of Philosophy, University of North Carolina – Charlotte). With funds from the National Science Foundation, the post-doctoral student will engage in research with and about the community of practitioners belonging to the Citizen Science Association (CSA). Citizen science refers to a broad spectrum of ways in which scientists and members of the public collaborate in scientific discovery. The CSA is a professional society established to organize practitioners of citizen science, and serves over 5,000 practitioners in more than 15 countries, hosts an academic journal and scholarly conferences, and links practitioners through an active listserv and many working groups. One primary goal of the CSA is to support best practices in citizen science.

The postdoctoral research is intended to help the CSA build capacity to cultivate professional ethics among practitioners by identifying, extending, and synthesizing ethical norms from the many disciplines engaged in citizen science. The research focuses on the common denominator to nearly all citizen science projects: volunteer data collection and use. Data are the bedrock of citizen science: they must be reliable, rigorously collected, and ethically obtained, or they will not be used by other scientists or public policy developers. By socializing practitioners to ethical reliability (understood as the trust users of the research can have that the results were obtained ethically) into data science practices from the outset, we hope that in citizen science will be deeply informed by ethical practice.

Research activities include:

(1) create an inventory of data handling practices of citizen science projects (e.g., data licensing, informed consent, location obfuscation technique, etc.),

(2) carry out mixed-method research to determine views of practitioners and volunteers on the ethics of data collection and management,

(3) co-create best data practices and co-design guidance and resources with practitioners,

(4) assist with outreach and dissemination of tools for ethical practices in citizen science, and

(5) assess use of tools and resources via a quantitative survey of the ethical culture of CSA membership. Project products will advance the field of citizen science by creating a culture of data ethics and enable CSA to provide tools and resources accordingly.

Key responsibilities of the post-doc include:

  • Assist or lead in developing peer-reviewed journal articles, academic presentations, non-technical reports and outreach materials (e.g., Guide for Project Owners), and other project deliverables.
  • Contribute to the activities of the cluster on Leadership in Public Science, which offers unique intellectual focus and professional development in the realm of citizen science, open science, and science communication.
  • Work with faculty advisors and partners to enhance capacity of the Citizen Science Association in supporting cultural norms of data ethics.
  • Coordinate periodic meetings with the research team and advisory board.

Required Qualifications:

  • PhD in social sciences, humanities, human dimensions, or a discipline related to public science, citizen science, or ethics
  • Demonstrated research productivity
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Strong commitment to public science
  • Experience with mixed methods research (qualitative interviews and quantitative surveys)

Desired Qualifications

  • Competency with concepts of human-centered design
  • Familiarity with “big data”, open science, and data privacy and geoprivacy
  • Program management experience
  • Experience working in citizen science contexts as a researcher and/or practitioner

How to Apply: The formal application process and details here: