Collecting data useful for advocacy around your environmental concern may be an involved and often long-term process. When undertaking data collection, its important to review the action points in awareness raising and regulatory and political processes. These action points may change as technologies are identified, but understanding the landscape of action points is crucial to identifying the type of data needed and the best ways to collect it. Often a data on a specific environmental concern may be harder to collect or less actionable in regulations than data on a related issue. For instance, monitoring groundwater requires extensive well digging and can be cost-prohibitive, while surface runoff can be easily cataloged with photographs.
[[See: identifying advocacy pathways, reviewing regulatory pathways, tiers of use.]] LINK
Find communities active on your issue, and people whose job it is to answer your questions. Research librarians at public libraries and academic libraries, environmental and public health officials, agricultural extension services, and often professors at public universities have either jobs specifically for answering the public’s question or obligation to help residents with their issues. Companies engaged in monitoring or selling equipment may be less available than those in the public sector.
Online searching, browsing regulatory documents, and reading academic papers may be a part of your process, but this stage can be very difficult without background and a good set of key words from your glossary. Seeking knowledgeable people first will often save time.
The easiest data to use is the data that already exists, and the easiest data to collect is that which comes from a well-known technique. Implementing a data collection program can be a lot of work. The following questions are ordered by ease:
- How are other community researchers using data?
- What data can be had from existing resources? Is that enough to take action?
- How are community researchers collecting data?
- How are academic and regulatory researchers collecting data?
- What new data collection methods are emerging?
- What historic techniques may be applicable in a community science context?
Begin with open questions specifically about your concern or action point, and attempt to avoid too many specifics early on. Many technical people are likely to give answers heavy on specifics, and keeping questions broad is important at the beginning. As you get an understanding of the landscape of methods, your questions will narrow.
Identify Key Terminology
Knowing the right words to ask a researcher, search engine, or databases go a long way to finding the data or technique you’re looking for. Technical literature is often jargon-filled and opaque. Sometimes the terminology serves to clarify a point for expert users, other times it’s just needless complexity. Don’t be intimidated by not understanding all or even most of the documents and answers you find. Skim what you can and be bold in your questions. No one is stupid for being confused by jargon. It takes years to become fluent in a field’s terminology, and even seasoned veterans of the same field often don’t understand the terms of their colleagues.
Open a Glossary
Open a glossary of terms for yourself, and keep it at hand as a ‘language diary.’ It can be empty when you start. Don’t be afraid to ask questions without using a field’s technical language, but pay attention to the language found in the answers to your questions. Put those terms into your glossary and keep definitions updated as you garner greater understanding. Wikipedia is is your friend but rarely the final word on a term.
As you narrow in on techniques that can assist you in collecting data for advocacy, share your findings and reach out for confirmation from those whom you’ve found helpful. Bring your review back to your community and seek local social support in acquiring and using your techniques.
Also see: [tiers of use.] LINK