Citizen science: Empowering citizens to address global challenges

Citizen science is increasingly recognized as an important tool for democratizing science and promoting the goal of universal and equitable access to scientific data and information. IIASA researchers actively contribute to the development of this scientific approach and have recently published a primer aims at both established and aspiring citizen science practitioners to highlight key issues and how to address them.

Citizen science has a long history and interested volunteers have participated in scientific research for centuries, leading to some of the most extensive data sets and information sources on, among others, public health, pollution monitoring and tracking of ecology and biodiversity. Today, it offers unique opportunities to join science and research around the globe, empowering people to participate in the scientific process, to collect and share data and information, and to be equipped to contribute to action collectively to address the important challenges we face locally and globally today.

IIASA is known for developing innovative research methods to address global problems, and citizen science is no exception. A new article led by IIASA was just published in Nature Methods Reviews Primers, highlights how citizens can contribute meaningfully to scientific research, thereby becoming an integral part of creating the integrated, evidence-based knowledge needed to address some of today’s most pressing challenges, including pollution of the environment, food security, loss of biodiversity or the climate crisis. The authors also draw attention to the great impacts and potential of citizen science for monitoring progress on ambitious global efforts such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), large-scale data collection, and as a viable tool for to close data gaps and to support comprehensive decision-making.

Nature Methods Reviews Primers articles are high-quality introductory review articles that describe the current state of the art for the application of a specific scientific method. Being invited to write a citizen science primer is important in two main ways. First, it highlights that the field is gaining recognition within the scientific establishment as a valid and valuable approach. Second, it provides the opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of citizen science opportunities to a wide range of scientists and researchers who are not yet familiar with it,” explains co-author Gerid Hager, a researcher at Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability. IIASA Advanced Systems Analysis Program Research Group.

One of the great advantages of citizen science is that it promotes open data practices. In this way, the approach contributes to science innovation by opening science to society and advancing collaborations between different actors, including citizens, which helps to make science more participatory and inclusive.

“When optimally designed, beyond addressing data gaps to create effective policies and achieve sustainable development, citizen science can help create more inclusive data ecosystems that empower individuals and communities, especially those that are hard to reach and marginalized,” notes co-lead author Dilek Fraisl, a researcher in the same group at IIASA.

In conclusion, the authors note that the fields of application for citizen science methods and approaches continue to expand in terms of subject matter and deepen in terms of advancing methodologies as more examples of citizen science research enter the mainstream scientific literature. The principles described in their primer have been successfully applied in a wide range of research fields, especially in biodiversity research, earth observation and geography, climate change research or environmental monitoring, which in turn further contribute to the development of best and new practices. approaches within ecological and environmental sciences.

– This press release was originally published on the website of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

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