Citizen
science

Citizen science at the forefront

Citizen science is defined as work undertaken by civic educators and scientists together with citizen communities to advance science, foster a broad scientific mentality, and/or encourage democratic engagement, which allows people in society to join the debate about complex modern problems.


MICS innovation

Citizen science is emerging as an important mechanism for informing policy. However, neither policymakers nor scientists currently have enough empirical evidence on how citizen science contributes to scientific discoveries and benefits society overall. Innovative approaches and a more diverse array of citizen-science evaluation-tools are needed to plan and implement projects in ways that lead to more powerful scientific outcomes and subsequent impacts. To explore these approaches and develop these tools (frameworks, guidelines, recommendations and applications), the MICS project will focus on an interdisciplinary priority area of scientific enquiry where citizen science can be at the forefront, known as nature-based solutions (NBSs). The project will research new solutions for evaluating the social and environmental impacts of citizen science.


Stakeholders

In order to fully capture the potential of Citizen Science in terms of knowledge co-creation in applied settings, a diverse range of stakeholders is involved in the co-design process as early as possible, namely:

  • citizens, communities and civil society organisations;
  • scientists;
  • public sector actors - legislative (policymakers);
  • public sector actors - executive (local authorities; implementing agencies);
  • industry/private sector.

Output, outcome and impact

Output

  • It is what is directly produced or supplied by an activity or intervention, for example, the observations collected.
  • It consists of tangible data, products or services produced as a result of the activities or interventions (and can be subject to external factors). ​  

Outcome

  • It is the immediate change in a situation, including behavioural changes that result from the outputs. It can be intended and unintended, positive and negative. For example, an unintended outcome of a citizen-science project carried out in collaboration with an oil company can be greenwashing.
  • It has a clear link with the intervention and is influenced by external factors as well. ​  

Impact

  • It broadly defines the (widespread) changes over a longer period that result from an accumulation of outcomes and affect the wider economy and society, for example, a change in legislation. ​ 
  • It is strongly influenced by external factors. ​ 


Principles of citizen science

  1. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in a scientific endeavour that generates new knowledge or understanding. Citizens may act as contributors, collaborators, or as project leader and have a meaningful role in the project.
  2. Citizen science projects have a genuine science outcome. For example, answering a research question, informing conservation action, or facilitating policy decisions.
  3. Citizen science provides benefits to both science and society. Benefits may include learning opportunities, personal enjoyment, social benefits, the publication of research outputs, contributing to scientific evidence that can influence policy on many scales (locally, nationally, and internationally), and connecting the wider community with science.
  4. Citizen scientists may participate in various stages of the scientific process. This may include developing research questions, designing methods, gathering and analysing data, and communicating results.
  5. Citizen scientists receive feedback from the project. For example, how their data are being used and the research, policy or societal outcomes.
  6. Citizen science, as with all forms of scientific inquiry, has limitations and biases that should be considered and controlled for. However, unlike traditional research approaches, citizen science provides greater opportunity for public engagement and participation, increasing accessibility of science in society.
  7. Where possible and suitable, project data and meta-data from citizen science projects are made publicly available and results are published in an open-access format. Data sharing may occur during or after the project.
  8. Citizen scientists are suitably acknowledged by projects. This may include acknowledgement in project communications, result reporting and publications.
  9. Citizen science programs offer a range of benefits and outcomes which should be acknowledged and considered in project evaluation. Communication and evaluation of projects could include scientific outputs, data quality, participant experience and learning, knowledge sharing, social benefits, capacity building, new ways of science engagement, enhanced stakeholder dialogue, and wider societal or policy impact.
  10. The leaders of citizen science projects take into consideration the legal and ethical considerations of the project. These considerations include copyright, intellectual property, data sharing agreements, confidentiality, attribution, participant safety and wellbeing, traditional owner consultation, and the environmental impact of any activities.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824711.

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MICS, 2019-2021
Photo credits: River Restoration Centre