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Citizen science – What is citizen science?

Citizen science, also known as participatory science, is a collaboration between scientists and people who are curious and motivated to preserve nature and participate in scientific projects. This article presents some of the projects and the benefits for all stakeholders.

Citizen Science definition

Citizen science is defined as the scientific research carried out by individuals without a professional scientific background, who contribute to:

  • Identify research questions 
  • Collect data, analyze it and then interpret results 
  • Make new discoveries 
  • Participate in the development of apps and technology

This approach has an instrumental aspect because it must reflect both the objectives of scientific actors. At the same time, it also takes into account the participation of citizens in the production of scientific knowledge.

It is thus an alliance of engaged people. It is a way to include stakeholders such as citizens and companies and increase awareness of the importance of nature conservation.

Citizen science on field, a group of citizen scientists collecting algae samples for a citizen science project.
Citizen scientists collecting algae samples

 Benefits of citizen science

Everyone can benefit from participating in these outdoor activities. First because protecting Earth concerns each of us and secondly because it offers an opportunity to broaden the knowledge base of scientists and citizens, through the involvement of each citizen. 

The benefits of citizen science address mainly three stakeholder groups:

  • scientists
  • individual citizens
  • companies

Benefits for scientists and researchers: 

Through participatory science, scientists can open up their research process to the public, allowing them to conduct investigations and make discoveries that they would not have been able to do alone. By involving citizens in the data collection, communication and analysis, scientists can perform their tasks more efficiently and increase their reach.

In today’s interconnected world, thousands of people can contribute to in-depth studies and research also from distance. The benefits for scientists and researches fall into three main categories: 

  • Contributory: when citizens collect data 
  • Collaborative: when they analyze and interpret the data 
  • Co-creative: when they participate at all levels of a project

Benefits for citizens: 

By participating in citizen science projects, a citizen scientist becomes more aware of environmental issues and of the importance of actions for sustainability. Volunteers and participants become more involved in scientific research and improve their knowledge and literacy. 

Moreover, engaging communities in their immediate environment gives them a sense of stewardship and ownership that improves their social well-being.

Citizen science helps to ensure that scientific agendas are well aligned with major societal challenges such as the SDGs and narrows the gap between citizens and science.

It encourages people to be curious about the world around them. More informed, they can play a valuable role in influencing major policy decisions that are based on scientific reports.

Benefits of citizen science for companies:

Citizen science enables companies to implement an ESG strategy by making sustainable actions. They could have an impact on local politics and the conservation of natural resources. 

It give them a positive image for their customers and more visibility for their future customers. (parties prenantes)

Engage team members in one hand, on protecting the environment but also boost their engagement at work. 

Citizen science projects

Through concrete projects, we see how it supports scientific and technological advancement. Citizen science projects are vast and can take different forms regarding the subjects touched, these are some common topics: 

  • Projects related to water
  • Projects related to air quality
  • Projects related to biodiversity of the fauna and the flora
  • Projects related to space

To take some examples of such projects, we first can talk about one of the oldest one which is the Christmas Bird Count. Sponsored since 1900 by the National Aubudon Society, the annual event is led by an experienced birder to accompany a group of volunteers in gathering information about local bird populations.

Also, recently the EU funded EU-Citizen Science project incentivizing more and more people in the process and collection of relevant scientific data. This highlights the necessity to educate everyone for environmental protection and rapidly bring sustainable consciousness for the future generation.

Citizen science and Outdoor Sport with OutBe

OutBe is an innovative start-up with a social vocation which aims to connect outdoor centers, citizens and companies to scientific research projects, creating a new model of interaction between people and nature where outdoor sport is at the service of environmental conservation.