Session #3

Session #3: How is the validity of citizen science challenged? 

Wednesday, July 29th

11am-1pm (Pacific)/ 12-2pm (Mountain)/ 1-3pm (Central)/ 2-4pm (Eastern)

Though citizen science often promises to elevate the voices of non-scientist groups and research, research projects that utilize citizen science often run into challenges regarding the validity of research practices and results. Readings and guests for this session will examine the challenges of conducting citizen science in contexts where relations of trust between scientists and collaborators are tenuous and validity of results are questioned.

Session 3 video can be found here.

Session 3 audio can be found here.

Session 3 Prezi can be found here.


  1. Callaghan, Corey T., et al. “Improving Big Citizen Science Data: Moving beyond Haphazard Sampling.” PLoS Biology, vol. 17, no. 6, June 2019, pp. 1–11.
  2. Mendenhall, R. 2020. Involving Urban Single Low-Income African American Mothers in Genomic Research: Giving Voice to How Place Matters in Health Disparities and Prevention Strategies. Family Medicine and Primary Care: Open Access. Volume 4; Issue 02.
  3. Mendenhall, R. 2019. The Citizen Scientists of Hidden America. Science Node.
  4. Hoover, E. (2016). “We’re not going to be guinea pigs;” Citizen Science and Environmental Health in a Native American Community. Journal of Science Communication, 15(1), A05.


Ruby Mendenhall is an Associate Professor of Sociology, African American Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, Gender and Women’s Studies and Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology; Women and Gender in Global Perspectives; the Cline Center for Advance Social Research; Epstein Health Law and Policy Program; Family Law and Policy Program and the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Mendenhall is the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Mendenhall’s research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls, art, wearable sensors and genomic analysis. She examines the role of the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) in social mobility and health outcomes and the medicalization of poverty. She is interested in how families use their EITC to secure affordable and safe housing. She studies the effects of racial microaggressions on students of color health and sense of belonging on predominantly white campuses. She also employs big data to recover Black women’s lost history using topic modeling and data visualization to examine over 800,000 documents from 1740 to 2014.  

Frances Roberts Gregory is an ecowomanist ethnographer and Ph.D. Candidate in Society & Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research explores how Gulf Coast women of color navigate contradictory relationships with energy and petrochemical industries, resist environmental racism and advocate for climate justice. She previously consulted for the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and taught courses on climate justice and environmental racism at Tulane University and Bard Early College New Orleans (BECNO). She is a former Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) protege and previously worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). In the fall of 2021, she will start a new position as Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and co-director of the Spelman College Food Studies Program. You can read more about her work here.

Betsy Taylor, Executive Director, Livelihoods Exchange Network (LiKEN). Betsy Taylor is LiKEN founding director and a cultural anthropologist.  Over the past 20 years, Dr. Taylor (Ph.D. Anthropology) has worked for community-driven development in Appalachia and South Asia to integrate issues of health, agriculture, forestry, culture and environmental stewardship.  In popular and scholarly venues, she writes about environmental and social justice movements, democratic planning and participatory research, women’s issues, the commons, democratic reclamation of academe / professions.  She co-authored, with Herbert Reid, the book, Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2010). Many of her writings can be found on her website and on the LiKEN website.

Mary Hufford, Associate Director, Livelihoods Exchange Network (LiKEN). Folklorist Dr. Hufford (Ph.D. Folklore and Folklife) has worked over the past three decades in government, academic, and local community settings. As folklife specialist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress (1982‐2002) she led regional team fieldwork projects in the New Jersey Pine Barrens and the southern West Virginia coalfields. From 2002‐2012, she served on the graduate faculty of folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania, directing the Center for Folklore and Ethnography from 2002 to 2008. For a more complete list of her downloadable publications go to her website and the LiKEN website.

Ricki Draper, Community Engagement Coordinator, Livelihoods Exchange Network (LiKEN). Since 2011, Ricki has lived and worked in Central Appalachia, supporting various community-led efforts for environmental justice and economic transition in the region. Ricki began working on drinking water quality issues in Martin County, Kentucky as an Appalachian Transition Fellow with Appalachian Citizens Law Center and Martin County Concerned Citizens in June 2018. In partnership with these organizations, University of Kentucky and LiKEN, Ricki has supported the implementation of a multi-pronged campaign to address the lack of access to clean and affordable drinking water in Martin County. The campaign integrates citizen science, participatory action research, and industry watchdogging with community organizing and advocacy to increase public participation in decision making and realize the goal of clean and affordable drinking water for all. For more on Ricki’s work, see the LiKEN website.

Supplmental Materials:

  1. What’s Left Behind? (2017). Film. Documentary (co-producer Ruby Mendenhall) about mothers who have lost their adult children to gun violence.
  2. Mendenhall, R. (2018). The medicalization of poverty in the lives of low-income black mothers and children. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics46(3), 644-650.
  3. “Innovating with Compassion” (2018). Sensor exhibit on stress and gun violence in Englewood (Chicago).
  4. Roberts-Gregory, F. and Hawthorne, T.L. 2016. Transforming Green Walls into Green Places: Black middle class boundary work, fractured communication and greenspace accessibility in southwest Atlanta.” Geoforum 77: 17-27.
  5. Roberts-Gregory, F. 2020. “My Petrochemical Love.” Anthropology News website, April 22, 2020. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1387
  6. Roberts-Gregory, F. 2020. “On Being the (Only) Black Feminist Environmental Ethnographer in Gulf Coast Louisiana.”  Edge Effects
  7. Hufford, M. (2014). Groundtruthing the public trust: Ethnography, mountaintop retention, and the reclamation of NEPAPracticing Anthropology36(4), 52-58.
  8. Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Networks (LiKEN)

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