Public participation: Time for a definition of citizen science

As founders of the Austrian Citizen Science Network, we call for the standardization of citizen science. This would optimize quality and ensure openness in the science, in communication and in cooperation, and enable compliance with legislation such as that on data privacy.

Citizen science, in which amateurs participate in research, is gaining momentum in the scientific literature, but it is still not clearly defined. Various approaches and concepts are in use in different countries, for example (M. V. Eitzel et al. Citiz. Sci. Theory Pract. 2, 1; 2017). If citizen science is to be fostered by funding agencies (as planned) and applied more often by scientists, we need a rigorous definition of method to safeguard the reputation of research and the value of public participation.

Individual projects have taken steps to this end, but a broader vision and greater coordination are needed. Our working group is developing an open framework and a catalogue of quality criteria for evaluating citizen-science projects with a view to inspiring other platforms, networks and scientists to do the same (see B. Kieslinger et al. Preprint at SocArXiv; 2017). Citizen science must not become what its critics claim it to be: poor science with great communication potential.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-05745-8
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