(january 2018-july 2019)
The Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) in Paris conducted a 18 months project called Particip-Arc on « Cultural research and Citizen sciences » funded by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2016, a report called “Les sciences participatives en France” (Citizen sciences in France, overview, good practices and recommendations) had been submitted to the French Ministry of national Education, higher Education and Research. Particip-Arc focused more on cultural researches. MNHN coordinated a 30 people network, all of them researchers or cultural professionals (curators, scientific mediators, archivists) in diversified domains such as archaeology, architecture and urban planning, linguistics, arts, musicology, communication, heritage... The aim was to identify key issues, needs, expectations in order to deliver recommendations to the ministry of Culture.
MNHN has a long history and an extensive expertise in citizen sciences due to historic collaborations with amateurs, management of many citizen sciences programs (Vigie-Nature, Les Herbonautes, Heritage management with local communities…) and reflexive studies on these programs. MNHN received a national funding from the 2015-2019 Investissement d’Avenir program (Future Investment Program) for its project 65 Millions d’Observateurs, which enabled the Museum to develop technical and communication tools and to internalize numerous specialized skills and jobs.
Particip-Arc network worked along plenary meetings, working groups, enquiries, surveys and guests speakers, sharing knowledge and experiences, lots of questions and findings. The network finally focused on three main issues: participation and participating people; research and induced mutations; tools for participation, collect and data processing.
We observed a huge diversity of approaches, situations, methods and goals. Nevertheless, common issues are emerging: weakness of capitalization and information flow on tools, legal aspects, networking processes and communication. Transversal debates on citizen science and sharing of experiences in cultural fields are still immature, which generates a loss of time and resources, even though numeric tools are in constant development and their use easy for everyone. Nevertheless, we foresee many possibilities for research, education and empowerment of participators and communities, and for conservation and even safeguarding and reappropriation of cultural assets.
The network structured thematic keys questions: how does participative research evolves day by day research activity? How do implicated researchers and professionals should be organized and better prepared to set up citizen science projects? Within the many technical and methodological opportunities, which tools should be fostered, and what functionalities should be preferred to implement citizen science projects? To which technical, legal or organizational aspects should a researcher pay attention first, regarding participants, ethical and deontological considerations, in this new professional relationship with non-professional people? How does research as a whole evolves because of citizen sciences and what does these trends tell us specifically in cultural fields?
In the report, the network shares the synthesis of its considerations, and gives recommendations to the ministry of Culture in order to allow researchers, corpus curators (archives, libraries, museums…) as well as artists to develop easy non specialist’s participation in indicated research projects. The main acknowledgement that has to be pointed out are the advantages of citizen science for research, researchers and the whole society.