Great thing about ‘participatory’ science is the option to participate – what about ‘gatekeepers’ that decide what/when their community should participate?


Everyone can participate!

My goal is to have absolutely everyone that visits the ocean to have their say in the “Marine Conservation Survey”. I’ve sent requests to everyone I know, and everyone I can find, especially those individuals, organizations or businesses that have been in the area for years and have some acknowledged experience (e.g., dive shops that have been operating since the 1990’s). I aim to give everyone an opportunity to contribute and have their voice heard!

The great thing about ‘participatory science’ – it’s participatory!

The more people that participate, the more complete the picture I get – my ultimate goal of course!

I can’t reach everyone directly on my own – so I ask others.

In some areas where there is strong local scientific leaders, it works really well if I first let them know about the project. In the Maldives, for example, with support from Guy Stevens’ at Manta Trust, who informed his network about the project, I got an excellent response within ONE day. Strong, dedicated leaders like Guy are so unbelievably helpful!

Other areas can take longer – much longer.

Gatekeepers that decide who should/not participate.


In a very few cases, unfortunately, I’ve been met by scientists – the ‘gatekeepers’ to the local community – who do not want ‘their community’ to participate because it conflicts with their own research agendas. If, for example, they are running a shark diver survey. I’ve already commented on shark diver survey redundancies – so won’t talk about them here.

Instead, here I clarify that the “Marine Conservation Survey” is a SNAPSHOT of a communities experiences and opinions. It is not event-based monitoring like eShark, or these numerous other shark diver surveys. There should be no conflict.

The “Marine Conservation Survey” asks people on-the-ground about what conservation strategies are in place, how they work and what threats still need to be addressed – not for individual shark observations or photos.

Consequences of blocking participation

There are many reasons why individuals don’t participate in scientific surveys – I am aware of many! However, when individuals block other’s from participating because it threatens their own agendas, this makes things difficult and may provide unforeseen consequences. Blocking participation can be detrimental to valuable discussion and discovery – affecting the research and its findings – but also leaves room to negate any possible rebuttals. Hypothetically, for example, if anyone disagreed with a report or finding, I can point to the fact that I had given them – or their gatekeepers – the option of participating, and ask why they didn’t? Of course I can only report on the observations that are provided.

It should be totally up to you to participate! That’s the great thing about ‘participatory’ science.

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