Measuring costs and benefits of citizen science

Article by Kathy Tzilivakis: “It’s never been easy to accurately measure the impact of any scientific research, but it’s even harder for citizen science projects, which don’t follow traditional methods. Public involvement places citizen science in a new era of data collection, one that requires a new measurement plan.

As you read this, thousands of ordinary people across Europe are busy tagging, categorizing and counting in the name of science. They may be reporting crop yields, analyzing plastic waste found in nature or monitoring the populations of wildlife. This relatively new method of public participation in scientific enquiry is experiencing a considerable upswing in both quality and scale of projects.

Of course, people have been sharing observations about the natural world for millennia—way before the term “citizen science” appeared on the cover of sociologist Alan Irwin‘s 1995 book “Citizen Science: A Study of People, Expertise, and Sustainable Development. “

Today, citizen science is on the rise with bigger projects that are more ambitious and better networked than ever before. And while collecting seawater samples and photographing wild birds are two well-known examples of citizen science, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Citizen science is evolving thanks to new data collection techniques enabled by the internet, smartphones and social media. Increased connectivity is encouraging a wide range of observations that can be easily recorded and shared. The reams of crowd-sourced data from members of the public are a boon for researchers working on large-scale and geographically diverse projects. Often it would be too difficult and expensive to obtain this data otherwise.

Both sides win because scientists are helped to collect much better data and an enthusiastic public gets to engage with the fascinating world of science.

But success has been difficult to define, let alone to translate into indicators for assessment. Until now.

A group of EU researchers has taken on the challenge of building the first integrated and interactive platform to measure costs and benefits of citizen science….

“The platform will be very complex but able to capture the characteristics and the results of projects, and measure their impact on several domains like society, economy, environment, science and technology and governance,” said Dr. Luigi Ceccaroni, who is coordinating the Measuring Impact of Citizen Science (MICS) project behind the platform. Currently at the testing stage, the platform is slated to go live before the end of this year….(More)”