seaHarmony matches marine scientists with educators and community groups to foster collaborations
COSEE Island Earth (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has launched their new, dynamic website this week designed to bridge the gap between marine science researchers, resource managers, and educators. The site, seaHarmony
), matches scientists in different fields of marine research with classroom educators, managers, and community groups to help foster new collaborations based on algorithms of compatibility. Similar to online dating sites (but with the goal of professional collaboration), seaHarmony
connects participants who share similar ocean science interests and needs. It also serves as a venue for members to post new grant proposal ideas for developing collaborations.
In Hawai'i’s island community, a thorough knowledge and understanding of our aquatic resources is paramount in order to make informed decisions. It is essential that both formal educators and community organizations have access to current scientific research in Hawaiʻi. But scientists often struggle with how to make their research available and accessible to the public, particularly as many grants for research funding encourage broader impacts through community outreach. Likewise, classroom teachers in Hawaiʻi's schools don't have direct access to university-based science. On both sides of this divide, it is often a matter of who you know. seaHarmony aims to solve this problem by “introducing” the ocean science research and education communities.
“We want to help scientists find that educator or organization to collaborate with, and we want to help that collaboration start off on the right foot by matching partners and projects that are compatible”, said Dr. Judith Lemus, principal investigator of COSEE Island Earth. “Many scientists have told me that they would like to do more outreach, but they just donʻt know who to contact or how to get started”.
Marine scientists logging into the webpage create a profile detailing their field of research, availability and the level of commitment they're willing to put into education activities or collaboration. Similarly, educators or resource managers also make a profile indicating their science interests, age/grade level of their audience, and what kind collaboration they might want with a scientist. Then, seaHarmony matches scientists with educators and managers that have similar interests in topics and levels of participation, facilitating interactions with a built-in messaging system. In addition, the "Opportunities" page lists several open opportunities for scientists and educators to get involved in currently on-going projects. The seaHarmony site also features "Inspirational Stories" of past scientific/community collaborations to help spark ideas for future collaborations.
Educators and scientists who have tested the website have high hopes for the project. "All of the educators I've worked with in the past have wanted something like this, so I'd recommend it to everyone I know," said one UH marine science graduate student at a focus group for testing the site.
A UH marine science research professor added, "I think it's a great way to find opportunities and put people together." With a little bit of technology and a lot of community involvement, the seaHarmony site promises to be a big success for the field of marine science.