Earthwatch leads on new project growing citizen science in Europe (CROPS) - Earthwatch
A group of people including members of the Earthwatch Innovation team posing for the camera

Earthwatch leads on new project growing citizen science in Europe (CROPS)

A collaborative EU project, which helps upscale existing citizen science initiatives across Europe, was launched earlier this month. Earthwatch Europe takes the lead on the science behind the CROPS project.

In February 2024, a new EU-funded project was initiated. CROPS: curating, replicating, orchestrating, and propagating citizen science across Europe. The three-year-long project brings together six partners from six different countries to develop and demonstrate a modern, inclusive mechanism to support and sustain the upscaling of citizen science activities.

In the past decade, the progress of digital and mobile technologies made our world more connected than ever before, presenting new possibilities for data collection and sharing.

This paved the way for the development of participatory science practices such as citizen science, which rely on the collection and analysis of scientific data by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.

Even though citizen science is a proven and accepted methodology across a wide range of scientific disciplines, some drawbacks cannot be ignored.

To explore the full potential of citizen science, local projects need to be upscaled to a transnational level, with common protocols on data collection, sharing and accessibility. However, since many citizen science projects start as small-scale ideas, they lack the tools and experience to overcome the technical, practical and conceptual challenges required to grow into more impactful initiatives.

This is where the new CROPS project will make a difference. This project aims to inform and evolve the EU Research & Innovation system so that it can adequately support the transition of citizen science from a small-scale to a Europe-wide level, moving it towards a modern, open-science approach.

To reach its goal, CROPS will identify the most suitable citizen science initiatives to be upscaled to a Europe-wide level. While doing so, the project will also develop protocols, resources and examples of best upscaling practices.

Citizen science is applied across all the areas of the Horizon Europe EU Missions. Adaptation to Climate Change including Societal Transformation, Cancer, Healthy Oceans, Seas, Coastal- and Inland Waters, Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities and Soil Health and Food. CROPS will consider different projects and initiatives from each of these topics to cover as many fields of citizen science application as possible.

CROPS implements an integrated approach through four concurring and interweaving activities:

  • appraisal of existing citizen practices, their activities and their suitability for upscaling 
  • creation of protocols and guidance for the upscaling of citizen science, replicating and building on best practice that exists
  • identification and guidance regarding practical considerations such as open data sharing, sustainability, RRI and diverse funding opportunities
  • development of transnational citizen science communities, including the establishment of societal coalitions and identification of potential citizen science champions to raise awareness of the potential of citizen science when addressing Horizon Europe EU Mission goals

The CROPS project benefits from the expertise of six partners from six different countries: project coordinator INOVA+ (Portugal), scientific lead Earthwatch Europe (UK), IIASA (Austria), IFC (Spain), European Schoolnet (EUN) (Belgium) and OutBe (Italy).

All partners concur to realise CROPS’ objectives to curate the current citizen science landscape, using the best practices of the potentially scalable projects as foundation for the replication strategy. Through their skills, they will help citizen science activities to fully realise their impact potential.

CROPS will support citizen science growth by maximising the uptake of outputs and the sustainability of citizen science activities when moving to wider scales. The creation of transnational communities will help propagate the potential of upscaled citizen science, also celebrating “Citizen Science Champions” and sharing stories of success that can inspire more people to get engaged in citizen science projects.

Earthwatch’s Senior Citizen Science Researcher, James Sprinks, who is the Principal Scientific Investigator for CROPS, says:

This exciting new project offers a great opportunity for national citizen science initiatives to turn into EU-wide projects that will engage and connect more people and make an even bigger impact.” 

Earthwatch champions the use of citizen science for positive environmental impact and to address environmental crises. Citizen science is a key feature of most of Earthwatch’s environmental research projects including Tiny Forest tree planting and FreshWater Watch water pollution monitoring.  

Organisations and projects looking to upscale their citizen science activities through CROPS can find more information on the project’s website.

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