New UF CTSI Citizen Scientist curriculum to be presented at AECT Conference in November

A team of University of Florida (UF) researchers and staff will present a new citizen-scientist teaching curriculum at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology’s (AECT’s) annual convention in November 2017. The AECT is a professional association of thousands of educators and others whose activities focus on improving instruction through technology. This year’s convention, “Leading Learning for Change,” takes place in Jacksonville, Fla. from Nov. 6-11.

The UF team developed the curriculum for the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UF CTSI) Citizen Scientist Program, in which citizens from the community serve as collaborators on clinical research teams at UF. The 11 citizen scientists in the program, administered jointly by the UF CTSI and the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium, work closely with UF researchers, offering lay perspectives on everything from proposal reviews to patient recruitment strategies, and in other areas where stakeholder engagement may be needed. In 2016, a separate teen citizen scientist group formed to provide advice and feedback on pediatric-oriented research studies.

Throughout history, ordinary citizens with little or no formal training in the sciences have played important roles in fields such as archaeology, astronomy and natural history. Thomas Edison was a citizen scientist, as was Gregor Mendel, the 19th Century priest whose experiments on heredity in pea plants helped establish the field of genetics. However, the idea of engaging stakeholders from the community to help inform clinical research is new — so new, in fact, that when the UF CTSI Citizen Scientist Program got started, instructional materials for program participants were scarce.

To address the need for citizen-scientist instructional materials at UF and elsewhere, the UF team developed an online, self-paced curriculum to train new program participants using a web-based platform. The curriculum contains modules on research ethics, sponsored research, clinical and translational science, stakeholder engagement, cultural diversity in research, and biomedical informatics. Each module contains videos presented by subject matter experts, case studies, footage of citizen scientists in action, and resources to aid learning. The curriculum offers three levels of citizen scientist certification based on the levels of participant engagement: minimal, moderate and sustained.

The curriculum can be easily customized to suit the needs of citizen scientist groups at other institutions. In keeping with the institution goals of involving community stakeholders in research and supporting socially responsible practices in clinical research, the training materials will be available as an open educational resource (OER), which means they can be accessed by anyone for free. To access the curriculum, visit

UF team members involved in developing the citizen scientist curriculum include Janet Brishke, MPH, research coordinator III at the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium; Christy Evans, a UF citizen scientist; Albert Dieter Ritzhaupt, Ph.D., PMP, associate professor of educational technology in UF’s College of Education; Eileen Handberg, Ph.D., ARNP, associate professor in the Department of Cardiology; Natercia Valle, a graduate assistant in curriculum development and instructional design in UF’s College of Education; Betsy Shenkman, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Health Outcomes & Policy, director of UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy, co-chair of the UF CTSI and director of the OneFlorida Clinical Research Consortium; and David Nelson, M.D., director of the UF CTSI, assistant vice president for research and associate dean of the College of Medicine.

The UF team also was invited to participate in the AECT’s premier “Formative Design in Learning” symposium to be held in Jacksonville on July 22-23. The symposium, held in conjunction with the AECT’s Summer Leadership Meetings, brings together participants to share in a peer-review process expected to help them with manuscript submissions to the Journal of Formative Design in Learning. The UF team is preparing a journal article about the curriculum’s creation and design process for publication in the peer-reviewed journal, which publishes papers on research-based design and development in the field of teaching and learning.

The UF CTSI Citizen Scientist Program is one of many ways in which UF researchers have begun moving toward a model of patient-centered research. By engaging stakeholders throughout the research process, scientists hope to ensure that clinical trials address questions that are important to the end-users, and that patients enrolled in the studies reflect the diversity of real communities. To learn more about the UF CTSI Citizen Scientist Program, visit the UF CTSI website (

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