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The Spreading and Scaling of Citizen Science

The Spreading and Scaling of Citizen Science

Powered by a series of digital transformations over the past decade, citizens are increasingly becoming one of the major providers of knowledge and data - both on the web and in uncountable closed systems. We find ourselves in a situation in which we know arguably little about all the data flows surrounding us, as well as about its potentials and threads. These trends still leave several relevant research questions unanswered and advocate for ethical consideration to be taken into account more seriously. Together with legal and organizational considerations, emerging solutions should inform future policy-making.

Based on our previous research (see, for example, [1-5]) we see a need to more closely investigate impacts of (new) technologies and especially their potential role in the uptake of Citizen Science approaches at different geographic scales. Following the JRC’s mandate as the EC’s knowledge management and scientific services, we are particularly interested in the barriers and possibilities in the context of the EU.

A new collaboration with Ideas for Change assesses enablers and barriers for the up-scaling and the spreading of Citizen Science approaches. Here, up-scaling refers to the extension of an existing approaches form a smaller geographic area to a larger one (e.g. from a city to a region). Spreading describes a process in which an approach that was successfully applied in one location is carried over to another location - at the same geographic extent (e.g. from one city to another). This ongoing work particularly highlights possible roles – both, positive and negative – of technology, and includes illustrative examples. Possible implications related to the European Union (EU) context are considered where applicable.

The objective of this work is to provide concrete scenarios for the use of technology for scaling and spreading Citizen Science activities within the EU, and to clarify the boundary conditions for successful implementation. This will be achieved through (i) an analysis of already available scientific articles, project deliverables and other material that describe success cases and failures; (ii) an elaboration of the meaning of up-scaling and spreading in relation to Citizen Science; (iii) the identification of success factors, boundary conditions and risks related to the use of technology; and (iv) a critical reflection of the work carried out and development of the final scenarios. In terms of scope, scalability should be examined from the local (neighbourhood) level to the city, regional, national and EU-level.

The results of this work have been published in November 2020 as [6].


[1] Schade, S., et al. 2017. Using new data sources for policy-making. EUR 28940 EN. doi:10.2760/739266, JRC109472, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/using-new-data-sources-policymaking

[2] Schade, S. et al. 2019. Aliens in Europe. An open approach to involve more people in invasive species detection. Environment and Urban Systems 78. doi:10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2019.101384, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0198971518302679

[3] Schade S., et al. 2019. Joint Statement on new opportunities for air quality sensing - lower-cost sensors for public authorities and citizen science initiatives. Research Ideas and Outcomes 5: e37478. doi:10.3897/rio.5.e37478, https://riojournal.com/article/37478/

[4] Craglia, M. and Granell, C., 2014, Citizen Science and Smart Cities, EUR 26652, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-res...

[5] Craglia, K. and Shanley, L., 2015, Data democracy – increased supply of geospatial information and expanded participatory processes in the production of data, International Journal of Digital Earth, 8:9, 679-693, DOI: 10.1080/17538947

[6] Maccani G., Goossensen M., Righi V., Creus J. and Balestrini M., Scaling up Citizen Science - What are the factors associated with increased reach and how to lever them to achieve impact, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, ISBN 978-92-76-25157-6, doi:10.2760/00926, JRC122219.

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