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Concarneau Marine Station © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura

Participatory sciences

The Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, pioneer of participatory science in France, proposes that all citizens contribute to the improvement of knowledge of biodiversity.

When the citizen becomes an actor of science

Participatory science intersects with research or study programmes whose philosophy is based on the sharing of the scientific process between volunteer participants (citizens) and academic researchers to achieve knowledge of biodiversity. These programmes are based on the participation of volunteer citizens (marine managers, amateur or experienced naturalists, boaters, farmers, school children, associations, walkers, fishermen, professional fishermen, etc.).

Their goal is primarily scientific (to improve knowledge), but also educational (awareness of the scientific approach and knowledge of biodiversity) and accompanies environmental policies (via production of indicators, scenarios and evaluation of environmental measures.

In some areas, the contribution of citizens to scientific knowledge is indispensable in order to document and monitor the state of biodiversity (distribution of certain species, biodiversity "hotspots", temporal trends). This support is also essential to contribute to the improvement of knowledge on the global functioning of these ecosystems, their responses to local and global changes and especially to understand the interlocking of anthropic and climatic dynamics for better management.

Answering these questions implies being able to make spatio-temporal comparisons of the state of the systems and their dynamics, which indicates being able to sample in a standardised way multiple sites in the system over time. A major objective is therefore to build sufficiently large, reliable and solid data sets for such scientific analyses. The involvement of volunteers allows a large amount of data to be collected repeatedly over time and space, data that researchers could not obtain alone. Through simple protocols and answering scientific questions, citizens provide the scientific community with significant data to better understand the changes in our environment. Through, for example, participatory monitoring of biodiversity, they participate in documenting its status (indicators) and in better assessing the impact of environmental changes and the effectiveness of the management measures adopted. Depending on the programme, citizens may be involved in the co-construction of protocols, their improvement, the collection of data or even their analysis and their co-interpretation.

Participatory sciences create bridges between laboratories and citizens and allow them to discover or rediscover their everyday environment. But an increasing number of humans and especially children are less and less likely to have direct contact with nature in their daily lives. This loss of contact is particularly important in the marine environment, which leads to reduced visibility of the biodiversity of this environment and less "ability to take on the challenges". The educational objective of these programmes is also to generate enthusiasm for the observation of nature of proximity in order to reinforce individuals about the importance of biodiversity and its conservation. This perception of global changes and awareness of conservation issues in the marine environment by a large number of persons can help to facilitate the dialogue between actors, bring out territorial projects, and establish management and control measures and protection of the most relevant and sustainable environments.
Finally, the Concarneau Marine Station has a double tradition: its involvement in plankton monitoring in Baie de la Forêt and participatory sciences in the marine environment. The station was the precursor in this field with the association for the discovery of the underwater world (ADMS) from 1983 to 2003.