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Citizen science: What is citizen science?

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Citizen science - what is it?

Citizen science is scientific research that is partly or entirely carried out by ordinary people. Citizen science involves the public in scientific research. It has been utilized especially in natural and technical sciences. Practical examples of research conducted by citizens are birdwatching and participating in archaeological digs.

Citizen science is also about societal interaction at various stages of research. 
Universities Act (2009/558) promotes social debate as follows: "In carrying out their mission, the universities shall promote lifelong learning, interact with the surrounding society and promote the social impact of university research findings and artistic activities".

Universities of Applied Sciences Act  (2014/932) also reminds about cooperating with operating environment: "...each university of applied sciences shall cooperate with business and industry and other sectors of the labour market, in particular within its own region...".

How citizen science makes a difference (Video on Youtube, 1:05)

Technology creates citizen scientists (Video on Youtube, 3:49)

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Citizen science is part of open science

Citizen science advances open science. In Finland, open science is coordinated by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies with funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture. Open science is promoted in expert panels and their associated working groups. The Working Group on Citizen Science explores the interface between open research and society through citizen science.

The Tampere University Community Policy on Open Science and Research (pdf) highlights citizen science as:

"The openness of science also entails the work of researchers as experts and social commentators, as well as the involvement of non-academic people in research processes (in the form of “citizen science”)."

The Ten Principles of Citizen Science

The European Citizen Science Association has developed the principles of citizen science:

  1. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in scientific endeavour that generates new knowledge or understanding. Citizens may act as contributors, collaborators, or as project leader and have a meaningful role in the project.
  2. Citizen science projects have a genuine science outcome. For example, answering a research question or informing conservation action, management decisions or environmental policy.
  3. Both the professional scientists and the citizen scientists benefit from taking part. Benefits may include the publication of research outputs, learning opportunities, personal enjoyment, social benefits, satisfaction through contributing to scientific evidence e.g. to address local, national and international issues, and through that, the potential 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 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 is considered a research approach like any other, with limitations and biases that should be considered and controlled for. However unlike traditional research approaches, citizen science provides opportunity for greater public engagement and democratisation of science.
  7. Citizen science project data and meta-data are made publicly available and where possible, 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. The leaders of citizen science projects take into consideration legal and ethical issues surrounding copyright, intellectual property, data sharing agreements, confidentiality, attribution, and the environmental impact of any activities.

ECSA (European Citizen Science Association). 2015. Ten Principles of Citizen Science. Berlin.


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