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Earthwatch Europe researchers show how citizen science can contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals

A new paper co-authored by Earthwatch Europe researchers Isabel Bishop, Toos van Nordwijk and Steven Loiselle presents the first known case study demonstrating the practical application of citizen science to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 6.3.2: ‘Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality’.

The UN SDG indicators are the mechanism through which UN member states measure the progress of the SDGs.

As citizen science has been increasingly recognised as having a potentially important role to play in delivering the UN SDGs, this study examines the potential for the Earthwatch Europe-led fresh water monitoring project FreshWater Watch to contribute to SDG indicator 6.3.2 in two contrasting case study countries: one in England and one in Zambia. The paper explores the opportunities and biases of citizen science data when used either as a primary or secondary source for SDG 6.3.2 reporting.

The results indicate that citizen science data can be used reliably for SDG reporting, enhancing insight and detail, and can provide a more representative indicator of a nation’s freshwater ecosystems for international reporting requirements. To maximise the value of citizen science for SDG reporting, projects can be co-designed with statutory agencies and should combine data needs with those of the citizen scientists. In this way, the value of citizen science for SDG monitoring goes beyond the data: public engagement and collaboration generated by the project can also create environmental impact and help improve water quality.

'There are currently big gaps in data on the quality of water found in rivers, lakes, and wetlands around the world. This means we don’t know enough about the natural water resources that we are dependent upon for our lives and livelihoods. Our research shows that the data collected by citizen scientists has a really important role to play in helping regulators to understand the quality of the water in their country, and, ultimately, to protect it.'

Isabel Bishop, Freshwater Research Lead, Earthwatch Europe

Read the paper

Bishop, I.J., Warner, S., van Noordwijk, T.C.G.E., Nyoni, F.C., Loiselle, S. Citizen Science Monitoring for Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 6.3.2 in England and Zambia. Sustainability 2020, 12, 10271.



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