Reports From the Field: European Citizen Science Association

Berlin, Germany

Photo Credit: Hwa Ja Goetz / Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Last week in Berlin marked the third official convening of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) hosted by the Museum für Naturkunde. Project managers, academics, policy makers and technologists met to discuss the state of the field in the EU, funding opportunities, governance issues and share projects. The vision for the ECSA is to advance and promote a Europe where citizens are valued and empowered to take a key part in the growth of knowledge and sustainability.

The group defined challenges like respecting cultural differences, maintaining volunteer interest, avoiding redundancy, closing the gap between projects and policy and the appropriate use of technology.  Opportunities were highlighted in the overwhelming interest in creating and maintaining ECSA, strong core organizations and a wide diversity of citizen science topics. Questions left to be addressed were how to:

  • Accelerate current progress
  • Support national citizen science communities across Europe
  • Provide tools and solutions but also guidance
  • Close the gap between north-south participation in political engagement and attitude

The second day focused on how to best integrate citizen science data into the existing European Union Biodiversity Observation Network.  The 1998 Aarhus Convention by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, outlines the rights of citizens to participate in environmental decision making. The EUBON  plays an important role in providing citizens with access to environmental data collected by the government and partner organizations. Majority of the talks focused on what the architecture of a system like this would look like and culminated in breakout sessions addressing the User Experience needs of citizen scientists and database interoperability.

The closing speechUNEP_live, by Jacqueline McGlade, Chief Scientist of the United Nations Environment Programme, unveiled the new UNEP Live portal.  This data portal, which is used by the United Nations for analysis, shares local and traditional knowledge in addition to government collected data.  McGlade and team is hoping to introduce a third component which would include citizen science data and resources.

During the meeting, the ECSA presented their draft set of principles to describe best practices for citizen science practitioners. The Commons Lab is sharing this draft below in an effort to reach a wider audience for feedback. Please read and share any feedback you may have by writing to us at: Commons Lab at wilson center dot org.

ECSA Working Group DRAFT: Principles and Standards in Citizen Science

Ten principles of citizen science

  1. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in scientific research. Citizens can act as contributors, collaborators, or as project leader and have a meaningful role in the research project.
  2. Citizen science projects have a genuine research question or goal.
  3. Citizen scientists benefit from taking part. Benefits may include learning opportunities, social benefits, community cohesion, gathering evidence for a local issue, or the opportunity to influence policy.
  4. Citizen scientists may, if they wish, participate in multiple stages of the scientific process. this may include developing the research question, designing the method, gathering and analysing data, and communicating and publishing the results.
  5. Citizen scientists receive feedback from the project. for example, how their data are being used and what the research, policy or societal outcomes are.
  6. Citizen science data are considered an equally valuable contribution as traditionally collected data.
  7. Citizen science project data and meta-data are made publicly available, and results are published in an open access format. data sharing may occur during or after the project, unless there are security or privacy concerns that prevent this.
  8. Citizen scientists are acknowledged in project results and publications
  9. Citizen science programmes are evaluated for their scientific output, data quality, participant experience and wider societal or policy impact
  10. Citizen science is a flexible concept which can be adapted and applied within diverse situations and disciplines. citizen science lends itself to cross-disciplinary work, bringing new perspectives and skills to a research project.

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