Maps and graphics for a participatory research project

I’m enjoying making maps of participants for kittybiome, a new participatory research project on the microbiome of cats. It was very easy to make this map using Google Maps. (And using Google Maps is particularly appropriate for the project because we have a celebrity cat named NDA, who lives with inventor of Google Maps participating in the project.) Here all I had to do was import a csv file with a column of city and state names and all the pins appeared.

Do any of you have suggestions for other ways to make pretty maps that could be used in publications?

Also I’m exploring different ways to make interactive graphics for microbial diversity data. I’ve been advised that PCoA plots are not what the general public is looking for. Any suggestions are welcome!

3 thoughts on “Maps and graphics for a participatory research project

  1. Holly – I am curious – why did you choose to call this “participatory research”. I ask because just Monday I decided I felt better calling projects “Participatory Science” rather than “Citizen Science” … I just don’t really like the term citizen science for many reasons. I found an interesting blog post on the topic: Anyway – just curious what you were thinking

  2. When we were running the Kitty Kickstarter, someone on Twitter complained that the project wasn’t really citizen science, which I gather means different things to different people. I responded that we should have called it “cat-izen science.” I thought that maybe participatory science was a better term for our project but after reading that blog post, I’m still not sure. In our study, people are participating by contributing samples and data. And they have the opportunity to choose what samples to collect and to provide feedback. We are trying to be open about how we are doing everything that we do to prepare the samples for sequencing. And they will have access to the data. But we still need to address these criteria (and maybe others):
    “It should allow the balance of power in the relationship between non-scientists and scientists to move toward equality. A participatory science endeavour should include some mechanism for publicly recognizing and rewarding non-scientists in the same way scientists have recognition systems set up by and for their peers.”
    What does “participatory science” mean to you?

  3. This topic took up an amazing amount of time at the inaugural Citizen Science meeting last year in San Jose. As you say, the term “citizen science” means many things to many people. I’m a huge fan of whatever it is we want to call it, but I do have a beef with some people who insist that all participatory/citizen science “move towards equality”. It is obviously wonderful to have projects where non-scientists can contribute in a deep and meaningful manner to the process. And of course we should work to create more of these kinds of projects. However, there are still a lot of people who don’t want that level of engagement and are happy to contribute a swab, a data point, etc. and hear something about the project later. Far better to have citizen science projects with a low level of participant engagement than to have not had the project in the first place, thereby resulting in zero engagement. Some people in San Jose implied that scientists are being closed-minded and condescending by having such projects and calling them citizen science… I think the discussion needs to be a lot more nuanced.

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Holly Ganz

Holly Ganz is a project scientist at UC Davis working with Jonathan Eisen on the microbiomes of built environments where animals live.