As investigators who engage the public in both modeling and research endeavors we address two major questions: Does citizen science have a place within the participatory modeling research community? And does participatory modeling have a place in the citizen science research community?
Let us start with definitions. Citizen science has been defined in many ways, but we will keep the definition simple. Citizen science refers to endeavors where persons who do not consider themselves scientific experts work with those who do consider themselves experts (around a specific issue) to address an authentic research question.
Modeling is the language of scientific discovery and has significant implications for how scientists communicate within and across disciplines. Whether modeling the social interactions of individuals within a community in anthropology, the trade-offs of foraging behaviors in ecology, or the influence of warming ocean temperatures on circulation patterns in oceanography, the ability to represent empirical or theoretical understanding through modeling provides scientists with a semi-standardized language to explain how we think the world works. In fact, modeling is such a basic part of human reasoning and communication that the formal practice of scientific modeling has been recently extended to include non-scientists, especially as a way to understand complex and poorly understood socio-environmental dynamics and to improve collaborative research. Although the field of participatory modeling has grown in recent years, there are still considerable questions about how different software tools common to participatory modeling can be used to facilitate communication and learning among diverse groups, which approaches are more or less suitable (given the nature of a community or environmental issue), and whether these approaches effectively lead to action-oriented outcomes.