Community groups in Central Otago are being encouraged to apply for funding from the Otago Participatory Science Platform, Otago Museum director of programmes and science engagement Craig Grant, says.
If a community had a problem that needed a scientific process to try to solve it, they could apply for up to $20,000 per project, he said.
“It might be an opportunity – it doesn’t have to be a problem.
“For example, the Naseby community were thinking about tourism opportunities, and they got some funding from us to measure their dark skies.”
“They realised that they were even darker than some of the areas which have got international dark skies accreditation.”
The scientific research helped Naseby in submitting its application to the International Dark-Sky Association.
Recently Naseby was recognised by the association as a 3K Town, an important step along the way to dark sky accreditation, Mr Grant said.
“It’s a chance for a community to think “OK, we’d like to understand something more about our environment” or “Look, we’ve got this opportunity but there’s this knowledge gap”, so that’s where the science can help.”
Help was also available for groups to be “buddied up” with a researcher.
If groups did not think they were ready to make an application, there was up to $2000 seed funding available, Mr Grant said.
This could help community groups to get linked with a researcher to spend some time with them to help in the preparatory work to design the research project.
The seed fund was available all year round for “groups that are not quite project-ready,” Mr Grant said.
“The participatory part of it is we look for the community to be part of the science, not for researchers to come in and do it for them.
This made the projects “hands on” as groups took measurements, recorded and gathered the data.
Community groups were also key to analysing the results, Mr Grant said.
“Quite often, the community are the ones that have those special insights.”
“So it enriches the science, and from the scientific perspective, the researchers will get insights from the community that they don’t otherwise have.”
The Participatory Science Platform, part of Curious Minds, had $155,000 available in 2018, funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Enterprise, Mr Grant said.
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