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New book ‘The Science of Citizen Science’ brings together the latest citizen science research and best practice

A new book authored by over 100 international experts on citizen science, including eight from Earthwatch Europe, is published today, Tuesday 12 January 2021.

The Science of Citizen Science’ represents the culmination of four years of international research and knowledge exchange. Published open access by Springer, it aims to provide a comprehensive point of entry for academics around the world who wish to add citizen science into their research or teaching curriculum. But many of the contributions to the book are accessible to wider audiences, including citizen scientists themselves, policy makers and environmental scientists.

The term ‘citizen science’ refers to the involvement of members of the public in scientific research. Citizen scientists can be involved in several stages of the scientific process, from collecting data to co-designing a scientific project from the outset.

The potential for citizen science to expand the reach of scientific activity is increasingly acknowledged, including on a political level. For example, last year the United Nations (UN) Water Capacity Development Centre found that Earthwatch’s FreshWater Watch project has potential for UN member states to monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It can yield both robust scientific data and analysis, but is also an effective means of increasing scientific literacy and engagement with particular issues.  

Earthwatch researchers have contributed to three chapters to the book:

  • ‘Creating positive environmental impact through citizen science; a practitioner’s perspective’ outlines six key ways in which citizen science can contribute to positive environmental change, and four approaches to citizen science projects. Six Earthwatch scientists co-authored the paper, including Director of Science, Policy and Innovation, Dr Toos van Noordwijk. It provides an important framework to help researchers, governments, communities and funders to set realistic expectations and design more effective and impactful citizen science projects.
  • Dr Noordwijk also co-authors ‘Citizen science and policy’, which explores the ways in which citizen science and policy interact, and how each can support the other. Citizen science has huge potential to provide evidence that informs policy, ensuring that public funding is spent in the most impactful areas.
  • Three Earthwatch researchers, including Senior Research Lead for Innovation, Dr Luigi Ceccaroni, co-authors ‘Citizen Science, Health, and Environmental Justice’, which reviews citizen science projects that aim to address complex issues around health and inequality, and how those areas interface and impact on one another. This important area of research has become even more relevant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has often seen areas of deprivation hit hardest.

Dr Noordwijk said: “Citizen science is an exciting field that continues to grow and evolve. It has the potential to change hearts and minds, and is a powerful tool that can contribute to a new age of environmental sustainability. Citizen science is at the heart of the work that Earthwatch does and we are proud to have contributed to a range of chapters in this book.”

"Creating the book has been a huge effort by citizen science experts from across Europe. It brings together the latest thinking in one place and should therefore makes it much easier for researchers, students, policy makers and anyone else with an interest in this field to get up to speed and be inspired. It’s great that it is available Open Access, so anyone who is interested in learning more about citizen science can dive right in."

The book is a culmination of the work of European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), an EU-funded intergovernmental framework to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe. Over 100 authors from 24 countries have participated in the writing of the book, and also in the quality assurance process.  

The publication as a whole explores the full range of current research into citizen science, from its definition and ethical considerations, to inclusion and diversity amongst the citizen science community. It also presents practical tools, including various citizen science platforms across Europe.

Dr Ceccaroni is one of the editors of the book as well as a contributing author. He said: “This is possibly the most important book on citizen science published to date, and has the potential to significantly expand the use of citizen science by research communities around the world. It’s been a great honour for my colleagues and me to contribute to it.”

The following Earthwatch staff made contributions to ‘The Science of Citizen Science’

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