Case Studies: Scientist/Community Partnerships

The following case studies were written by scientists and community members who filled out a survey on our Community Connections forum page. Their responses showed their dedication to scientist-community partnerships, and highlighted unique ways to create and execute these collaborations.

We hope these case studies will serve as resources for anyone designing new scientist-community partnerships—and illustrate that there are many successful ways to engage diverse stakeholders.

Discussion group at Minnesota local food policy forum

Photo: UCS

Food Equity and Justice

Communities all over the United States are looking for ways to ensure that healthy food is available and affordable for all. Evidence shows that health effects of poor food access, affordability, and availability disproportionately affect communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal communities. The Center for Science and Democracy seeks to support local food policy efforts by strengthening access to scientists and public health professionals. This project followed the Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy forum that UCS organized in May 2014, where local leaders raised concerns about addressing food inequities a Minnesota’s most disadvantaged communities.

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Scientist watching team planting tree

Photo: Chaac Water Group

Untreated Wastewater for Crops

An environmental scientist and engineer living in Mexico, asked by a local environmental group to assess the health of a lake in San Miguel de Allende, discovered that more than half of local wastewater was being diverted before sewage treatment, much of it to irrigate surrounding crop fields. This discovery led to a project involving multiple community stakeholders to gather information about health and environmental impacts, document their findings, and advocate for solutions with local and federal authorities. 

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Balog River - now dead due to mine spill

Photo: AGHAM and Center for Environmental Concerns

Environmental Justice and Corporate Accountability—the Philippine Experience

This project, a partnership between AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) and community organizations, conducted an environmental investigation on a major mining disaster that destroyed a river system in Benguet province. The project engaged a multi-disciplinary team to integrate the knowledge of local communities with the quantifying expertise of scientists and technologists. The group's report revealed severe environmental, health, economic and political impacts of the disaster on local communities, prompting the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management to suspend the company's operations until the breach was resolved.

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Scientist working with youth on Miami/Jamaica project

Photo: Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

Citizen-Led Urban Environmental Restoration

Environmental responsibility and sustainability is a great challenge for future generations. Through this grant project, funded by the American Alliance of Museums with support from the US Department of State, youth from the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida and the Natural History Museum of Jamaica in Greater Portmore, Jamaica took action to restore urban habitats, while interacting with their international counterparts. This action and interaction built a community of environmentally active young citizens who were invited to take ownership of positive change in their communities.

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San Juan Headwaters Forest Partnership team in the field

Photo: Mountain Studies Institute

The History of the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership

A 2009 meeting in Pagosa Springs, CO highlighted the need to include all stakeholders in forest management activities, leading to the formation of the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, which describes its mission as "pro‐active, collaborative approaches to improving the health and long‐term resilience of communities by addressing forest and watershed health." By bringing land managers, businesses, community members, and environmental groups together to discuss project needs, locations, goals, and impacts before the projects are initiated, San Juan Headwaters has been able to address concerns and build support for projects that are determined to be relevant and important. The group is locally built, is driven by the local communities, and looks to advance the local economy and health.  

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Drift catcher training in 2006.

Photo: Pesticide Action Network

Community Air Monitoring in Watsonville, California

Scientists partnered with members of a statewide coalition for a community air monitoring project to collect scientific evidence of pesticide drift in areas where people live, work, and play. This data provided information to community members about pesticide use in their community, and provided them with new ways to engage on issues in their community.

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