iNaturalist & Citizen Science in National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plans

How many countries have made good use of Citizen Science and iNaturalist in their National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plans NBSAP and if not, why not ?

I’m looking at some of the plans especially in Africa where I live to see how often Citizen Science, Community Science and iNaturalist pop up. Surely, Governments in Africa could make very good use of CS and iNaturalist in fostering interest in, appreciation of, concern for, enjoyment of and participation in biodiveristy monitoring and documentation by college Biology, Environmental Science, Forestry, Fisheries and Agriculture students as well as the public. However I suspect that in many countries there is no or very little support for Ciitizen Science and iNaturalist by museum and herbaria staff, Biological Science lecturers and profs, Wildlife and Conservation staff and National Taxonomy Committees and Science Education Officers, Why the lack of interest by Government organisation and the formulators and implementors of NBSAPs ?

What can iNaturalists do to reverse this unfortunate situation and get iNaturalist and Citizen Science integrated into the plans and their implementation ?

What are the success stories of NBSAPs making good use of inat and CS and what are the failures ?

Here are examples of plans lacking any mention of CS or iNaturalist.
1 Rwanda
https://www.fao.org/faolex/results/details/en/c/LEX-FAOC148253
2 Papua New Guinea
https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/pg/pg-nbsap-v2-en.pdf
3 Barbados
https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/bb/bb-nbsap-v2-en.pdf
4 Fiji
https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/fj/fj-nbsap-v2-en.pdf

5 Botswana
https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/bot155279.pdf
6 Tanzania
https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/tan170299.pdf

I’m glad to see that South Africa mentions Citizen Science 20 times in its latest NBSAP.
https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/saf163700.pdf
Page 50 has the comment
‘South Africa has a number of successful citizen science programmes that have gone a long way to both harnessing knowledge and deepening environmental literacy in the public arena. Strengthening the work of these programmes is a priority.’

It’s great to see S Africa is on track. Perhaps other countries shall soon emulate S Africa.

Perhaps an analysis should be done to find out which countries also mention or fail to mention GBIF in their plans.

We can lobby relevant government departments to try to encourage them to adopt and promote CS and iNaturalist as rank-and-file iNaturalists. However would it be more effective if top managers, the movers and shakers in the iNaturalist organisation took on the lobbying role and told us of their success stories ?

Perhaps lobbying for the incorporation of CS and iNaturalist could focus on this event coming soon.
---------Regional Dialogues on National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans for African Countries, 30 May to 2 June 2024, Nairobi, Kenya
https://www.cbd.int/notifications/2024-016

I look forward to hearing more about success and failure stories about the adoption of Citizen Science, Community Science or INat in NBASPs.

Are there any reasons why the planners do not incorporate, value and promote Citizen Science ?
Thank you.

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At the last UN-Biodiversity conference (CBD COP 15) in Montreal, GBIF was there to present their importance and success stories - The COP itself is still small in comparison to the Climate-COP, but attention is growing and a mixture of a lot of stakeholders - may it be with presentation at a pavillion or with a presentation at a side-event… I don’t know if that would be a fitting place for Inaturalist to visit…? If the aim is getting more CS into NBSAPs that would be a place where you have people together from all the member states, hence states that have an National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan. Additionally, it is always a good idea to reach out on a national level (Fokal points) - but maybe in a coordinated way, I guess (when it comes to promoting CS in general, then together with other CS organisations/ indtitutions that use CS frequently)?

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This is an interesting question, which can be observed at different scale levels (national, regional, local).

The first difference is that there are (few) nations that do not support GBIF, which is the primary collector of scientific observations made by citizens.

Italy is one of these; instead of funding GBIF, Italy prefers to create its own national citizen science platform, which “in name” should collect the scientific observations made on the various citizen science platforms.

In fact this is not the case, because the observations reported are less than 1% of those made.

Furthermore, the scientific institutions themselves do not participate (with a few exceptions) in GBIF, i.e. they do not share their data.

So, I asked myself the reasons for these oddities and this is what I found as answers:

  1. Citizen science data is a danger. If you want to implement a project quickly, you would prefer that almost nothing is known about biodiversity in most places (except those places already restricted, such as nature reserves), otherwise the problem would arise whether the project should be implemented, or even remodelled, to reduce its impacts on biodiversity.

  2. Scientific data is power. Scientific institutions prefer to keep them to themselves, so that anyone who wants to deal with a certain topic is forced to involve them directly, or to produce research of only partial value.

  3. Using what already exists (GBIF) means reducing costs and having greater efficiency. Better to spend public money to produce, from time to time, multiple platforms and apps that do not work and produce non-standardized data (Darwin core), so as to have to redo everything over and over again and be able to lose the data collected, thus preventing it from becoming in the public domain.

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I have found some museum natural history staff here in South Central Africa, extremely negative towards iNaturalist even though they provide data directly to GBIF themselves. Do some museums see Inat as a threat to the value of their physical collections rather than a supplement. I do think there are some who want to be sole contributors of biodiversity data input and fear the competiton from the public doing the same job by using CS and iNaturalist ( perhaps more effectively). On the other hand I have been so very impressed by the contribution to CS and iNaturalist by the staff at the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and in Livingstone, Zambia. These two museums are great role models for the promotion of CS. I do wish ALL museum natural history departments would be totally committed to promoting CS and stop perhaps seeing it as a threat. Some museums really do want to become fossil exhiibits, themselves and carefully preserve and curate the dark, old, pre-internet ways of doing things ! Fossil Museums !

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Ivory tower syndrome leads to
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/duke-herbarium-closure/48997

Adapt or die? ‘Survival of the fittest’. Engage with citizen scientists or find yourself written out of active discussion in future? Even an ivory tower needs someone to sign off on their funding.

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I think grants given by GBIF go to the museums and institutions that fully promote CS and iNaturalist. What a great move ! This will encourage the laggards to adapt and save them from becoming fossil museums !

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I think this attitude can be found in some museum staff, though they are most often a pretty small minority in my experience. They are often the same staff who may want to keep data siloed in their institution as @valentino_traversa describes. I think some of this attitude comes from museums/natural history collections being under near-constant threat of losing funding/their existence and so trying to justify their importance/value by being gatekeepers. I think this is ultimately not productive, but I do understand some of it. On the other hand, making data digitally accessible isn’t cheap, either in terms of time or money. Many institutions may not have the resources to make their data as available as they might like. I think the idea of linking future funding with making data more accessible is a good one.

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Having a positive attitude towards Citizen Science and iNat costs no money at all. Museum could bring iNaturalists on board as volunteer collectors of pressed plants, volunteer photographers and digitisers of specimens and promoters of the museum. Museum staff at Livingstone Museum Zambia and The Bulawayo Natural History museum Zimbabwe have become the key players in promoting the City Nature Challenge and Great Souther Bioblitz for their countries and fully adopted and champion inaturalist at little cost to the museum. The museums then get credit for many of the successes of iNaturalist in their countries. Surely iNaturalist promotes the public interest in biodiversity and taxonomy which in turn promotes an interest in the physical collections.

Could organisiation like National Geographic steer some funds towards those museums and herbaria that promote iNaturalist. Dont a few US Dollars go a long way in Africa because of the exchange rates ?

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I generally agree with you, though I am not sure that

Many musems/collections are minimally accessible to the public to begin with, so I don’t know that public interest in iNat changes this.

In my experience, it’s the NHCs that are already more accessible to the public that are more engaged with iNat and CS which they see as a way to meet their larger priority of engagement (which is great!).

I do think that one significant barrier is just staff time. Even though iNat and interest in CS don’t cost money per se, acting on them does require an investment of time. Staff at NHCs are often spread very thin - even just upkeep on a collection is not easy. So I think more funding can definitely help here if it goes towards hiring more staff, including outreach coordinators and the like who are more public-facing/interactive.

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If governments as a whole had a positve rather than a negative or neutral attitude towards CS, wouldnt that encourage museums also to be more positive. That is a reason why I think each country should have a Strategic Action Plan for Promoting Biodiversity CS within its NBSAP. If Governments lead won’t museums follow and become more positive and less negative ?

Many people simply don’t know about iNaturalist in places I’ve been and talking with the people in the government who would know (if anyone does).

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The National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan is a great model for other countries in Africa to emulate ! https://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/saf163700.pdf
I hope this happens soon !

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Many countries in Africa and some other areas of the globe have National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans (NBSAP) which lack a strategic plan to promote Biodiversity Citizen Science using platforms like iNaturalist.
S Africa is an exception and its NBSAP does have a section dedicated to the promotion of Biodiversity Citizen Science. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Citizen Science has taken off and become very popular in S Africa, with many very active iNaturalists.

I suggest that iNaturalists could lobby for Citizen Science to be included in ALL NBSAPS across the globe and that all countries should have strategiic plans in place for the promotion of Citizen Science to increase public interest in biodiversity documentation.

Perhaps iNaturalists could raise their voice to boost the importance of Citizen Science and encourage its promoton by governments.

Please consider joining this Facebook group and expressing opinions about the addition of CS to NBSAPs.
There is a link on this FB group to join the NBSAP Forum.
https://web.facebook.com/NBSAPForum

Every NBSAP should have a strategic plan to get as many people as possible engaged in Biodiversity documentation by using platforms like iNaturalist.

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Perhaps it is a better approach to contact the shadow minister of environmental affairs from a opposition party and make him/her ask a parliamentary question to the minister asking what governemnt’s plans are to promote Citizen science in order to improve the NBSAP or why there is no such plan.

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I’m merged this thread with your existing one here since it is still open and the general topic is the same.

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That sounds like a very good idea.

That sounds like a very good idea !