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Understanding the benefits of citizen science


Earthwatch Europe is coordinating the Measuring Impact of Citizen Science (MICS) project. With five other European partners, we are developing a platform to understand if citizen science benefits research, society and the economy.

Citizen science enables people to get involved in research and take responsibility for the environment. It also gives people the chance to contribute towards the debate about complex issues which affect us all, such as environmental policy and pollution. However, we don’t currently have the tools to measure the impact that citizen science has on research and wider society. This could reduce the uptake of citizen science, hampering the public’s engagement with the environment.

The Measuring Impact of Citizen Science (MICS) project aims to fill this gap. Coordinated by Earthwatch, the MICS project will develop an integrated platform of tools to measure the costs and the benefits of citizen science, and allow project managers and policymakers to maximise the positive impact.

MICS can empower ordinary people too. It adopts and adapts the best practice generated by the Ground Truth 2.0 project through the co-creation of hands-on citizen science, validated in four case study sites across Europe. This will result in a comprehensive conceptual framework and clear recommendations for those involved in citizen science projects. 

MICS case study sites

Research projects in the four sites (in the UK, Italy, Hungary and Romania) are currently studying how nature-based solutions can support urban and rural ecosystems. These sites will work together to explore the co-creation of citizen science in regions with differing needs, contexts and approaches to environment management, using various levels of citizen science application. In some of the sites selected, MICS adopts the FreshWater Watch method, through which volunteers monitor nitrates and phosphates in freshwater ecosystems.

Impact of citizen science

MICS tools measuring the impacts of citizen science could make it easier to communicate the benefits of nature-based solutions, leading to increased funding and uptake for these interventions. 

More generally, the MICS project aims to measure broader impacts of citizen science on the environment, science, society, the economy and governance.

MICS will create a platform which could be used to assess the impact of any citizen science project, whether it is at the planning stage or years after the project’s completion. Providing a clear framework for measuring impact will help to make citizen science more efficient and effective, reduce costs, and spread the use of citizen science more widely. All of this will strengthen the role played by citizen science in research and informing policy.


Luigi Ceccaroni, coordinator of the project, said: “It’s totally applicable to any citizen science project, and MICS plans to integrate its impact assessment tool into platforms like EU-Citizen.Science and COS4CLOUD. The project might help to demonstrate that the citizen involvement angle has serious legs and that millions of people using apps to monitor the environment can make a difference. This citizen participation can build crucial political support for environmental action.”


How is Earthwatch involved in MICS?

Earthwatch is a leading environmental research organisation, and citizen science is a core part of our approach. We’re proud to be coordinating the MICS project with five partner organisations across Europe.

Earthwatch is also leading the part of the project aimed at sharing the results of the MICS project with the research community. This is to ensure that the evaluation platform is used widely after the project ends in 2021. We will also be producing policy recommendations on citizen science and nature-based solutions.

The new MICS metrics and instruments will also help to measure the impact of citizen science with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Meeting the targets is complex and we are behind where we should be on nearly every goal. MICS and, in general, the European Commission’s investment in citizen science offer a rare opportunity to achieve a measurable impact.


The project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No.824711.


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