Future Directions for Citizen Science and Public Policy

Open Access Book by The Centre for Science and Policy: “…The OED tells us that citizen science is “scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions.” However, even this definition raises many questions for policy makers trying to figure out how they might make use of it: “What is the difference between a volunteer in a scientific study and a citizen scientist?” they might ask. “Are all forms of public engagement with science considered citizen science?” or “What does it look like in practice?” – or even “Why do I need to bother engaging citizen science at all?”

This collection of essays presents a range of perspectives on these questions, and we hope it will encourage greater use of citizen science by governments. The authors have been brought together by the Centre for
Science and Policy (CSaP) through a series of seminars, lectures and an online conference. Three observations were made time and again:

  • First, there has been an extraordinary flourishing of citizen science during the past two decades. Huge numbers have participated in projects ranging from spotting patterns in protein structures to monitoring local air pollution; from garden bird surveys to deciphering the handwritten notes from the archives of philosophers; and from tracing radioactive contamination to spotting new planets in distant galaxies.
  • Second, there is a growing imperative in government to find new ways to involve citizens as partners in the development and delivery of policy.
  • Third, that while public funds have supported the expansion of citizen science’s contributions to scientific research, there have been surprisingly few experiments drawing on citizen science to contribute to the business of government itself…(More)”