I want to learn about the impacts of citizen science and
why it is important to measure them

What is the impact of
Citizen Science?

Citizen science initiatives can be associated with a wide range of impacts. Some of these impacts are related to the expected, concrete outcomes of an initiative (such as improved water quality in a water quality assessment project), while others consist of more intangible changes (for example, more pro-environmental attitudes of the participating citizen scientists).  

So there is a wide variety of impacts that should be considered when assessing impacts of citizen science projects. The MICS project developed a conceptual framework of citizen science impacts to provide a comprehensive overview of the impacts associated with citizen science and how these can be measured. This shows that, overall, five impact domains can be distinguished: Society, Governance, Economy, Environment, Science and Technology. 

Why is it important to
measure impact?

Measuring the impacts of citizen science is vital for a variety of reasons. Impact assessment of citizen science provides a variety of possibilities for practitioners. For example, if you are citizen science practitioner (running or participating in a citizen science project), it allows you to gain a fuller understanding of your initiative, highlighting which aspects of the initiative have the most impact, and which aspects are important to different stakeholders. It also enables you to adjust your initiative, making changes to its design or implementation to ensure that the citizen science project is as successful as possible. Similarly, it allows you to reflect on the impacts of your citizen science initiative(s), to refine methodologies for future projects. Finally, it allows you to showcase tangible results from your project, which are often vital when lobbying policy makers or pursuing funding. 

For academics and those studying the 'science of citizen science', impact assessment provides other benefits. In particular, it provides insights into best practice within citizen science, allowing us to identify for factors influencing the success of initiatives. Academics can also use impact assessment to understand broader impact patterns of citizen science, to highlight general trends in the field. 

How can this be done?

The MICS Online Guidance has been designed as a ‘one stop shop’ to guide you through different approaches to measuring the impacts of citizen science initiatives, from standardised approaches such as the MICS platform, to tailored approaches, combining indicators from the MICS Impact Indicator Explorer, and those that help you incorporate a focus on impact into the co-design from the start of your initiative. You can select the topic of your interest here. 

Also, in order to ensure that the impacts of citizen science initiatives can be compared and aggregated to generate insights into larger trends and lessons learned across the increasing number of citizen science initiatives around the Globe, MICS has developed six guiding principles for impact assessment of citizen science. You can find out more about each principle and the scientific work done leading to these principles here. 

Useful Resources

PAPER: The paper Impact assessment of citizen science: state of the art and guiding principles for a consolidated approach provides a detailed outline of the MICS conceptual framework, as well as insight into the development of the inventory of the indicators.

WEBSITE: The EU-Citizen.Science project hosts an inventory of citizen science projects on their website, with a subsection which focuses on impact within citizen science. 

CoP: The WeObserve Impact Community of Practice brings together practitioners of Citizen Observatories and citizen science to share and learn different ways of capturing impacts, including via participatory evaluation. 

VIDEO: During the 2020 ECSA Conference recorded a workshop that focused on impact evaluation in citizen science, with a spotlight on the role of citizens in evaluation 

 

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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