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Citizen science

Citizen science is defined as work undertaken by civic educators and scientists together with citizen communities to advance science, foster a broad scientific mentality, 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 focused on an interdisciplinary priority area of scientific enquiry where citizen science can be at the forefront, known as nature-based solutions (NBSs). The project has developed new solutions for evaluating the  impacts of citizen science.

Find out more, here.

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.

Interested in learning more?

The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) has a diverse network of members, both organizations and individuals, from Europe and beyond. They represent research institutes, museums, students and universities, NGOs and CSOs, the private sector and citizen science groups, among others. They come from a range of different fields, including biology, environmental science, citizens’ groups, do-it-yourself approaches and social sciences, among many others.

ECSA is always open to new members, from any country and subject area. All you need is an interest in citizen science! If you're interested in becoming a part of the European citizen science community you can find more details on joining below: