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Citizen Science: An Emerging Field of Research

Citizen science is scientific research carried out by people who do not identify as professional scientists. It is a way to conduct research as well as being a field of research in its own right. In recent years it has gained attention for its potential to strengthen the relationship between science and society. The Science & Society research group conducts, promotes, and facilitates citizen science research at both national and international levels.

Citizen Science in Ireland

One of the first global citizen science projects to start in Ireland was Sunspotter, hosted by the international citizen science web portal, Zooniverse. Sunspotter was led by the Trinity Astrophysics Research Group and was supported by members of the Science & Society research group implementing an education programme — visiting 20 schools around the country with 500 students taking part in citizen science activities — funded by a “Discover Science & Engineering Programme” grant from Science Foundation Ireland in 2013. The Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme also awarded the Science & Society research group a further award in 2016 to bring attention to citizen science initiatives through a partnership with Ireland’s leading newspaper, the Irish Times, which had a readership (combined print and digital) of 427,000 at the time.

This work culminated in a paper called “Citizen Science in Ireland” (Roche et al., 2021), published in Frontiers in Communication. This paper is an ideal resource for anyone who is interested in the history of how Irish citizens have engaged with science since ancient times. The paper also catalogues the organisations and initiatives currently facilitating citizen science in Ireland and suggests future directions for citizen science that capitalises on its potential impact on science education in Ireland.

Global Citizen Science

In 2015, a “New Foundations Award” from the Irish Research Council, and an “Arts and Social Sciences Benefactions Fund” grant from Trinity College, facilitated the Science & Society research group establishing links with citizen science networks emerging around the world such as the global Citizen Science Association and the European Citizen Science Association. A subsequent paper (Roche & Davis, 2017) provides an ideal starting point for anyone interested in learning more about these internal citizen science networks. These collaborations also led Science & Society research group members to be among the 23 authors from 11 countries who collaborated on a paper called “Citizen Science Terminology” (Eitzel et al., 2017) which has since become the definitive paper for anyone referencing the complexity around how citizen science is defined. With 175 citations in 20 research categories, this paper has been cited in policy documents of the European Union, the Research Council of Norway, and the Stockholm Environmental Institute.

This work also led to participation in the Citizen Science Cost Action CA15212. This COST Action saw the Science & Society research group investigate the role of citizen science in education and participate in a workshop to find opportunities to connect citizen science and education. The 15 workshop participants, from 12 different countries, worked together to write a paper called “Citizen Science, Education, and Learning: Challenges and Opportunities” (Roche et al., 2020), which was published in Frontiers in Sociology. The paper is designed for anyone working in education who wishes to understand the current and potential role of citizen science in education.

The Science & Society research group also contributed to the final output of the COST Action, an open-access book called “The Science of Citizen Science” published by Springer, and in particular a chapter of the book called “Learning in Citizen Science” (Kloetzer et al., 2021). This book demonstrates the opportunities that citizen science has across education, innovation and societal development, and has been downloaded more than 200,000 times since it was published in 2021.

EU-Citizen.Science

The Science & Society research group is also part of the European Commission-funded project EU-Citizen.Science. The project name also doubles as the web address for Europe's new home for citizen science. EU-Citizen.Science is a platform for sharing knowledge, tools, training, and resources for citizen science. The vision of the project is for citizen science to become an appreciated and widely established means for the democratisation of science in Europe. This is particularly pertinent, as the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, recently highlighted how “Interaction between citizens, scientists and policy makers is essential to enrich research and innovation, and reinforce trust of society in science.

EU-Citizen.Science is a consortium of European organisations from 14 European member states, and is represented by Trinity College (the Science & Society research group) in Ireland. These organisations have been working together for several years to build a platform that serves as the reference point for citizen science participants, practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and society across Europe.

If you are interested in getting involved in citizen science in Ireland you can set up a personal account on EU-Citizen.Science, register your organisation or projects, or connect and collaborate on the forum page for citizen science in Ireland.

EU-Citizen.Science has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under grant agreement No. 824580.

Outputs

  • Roche, J., & Davis, N. (2017). Citizen science: an emerging professional field united in truth-seeking. JCOM: Journal of Science Communication, 16(04), R01.     DOI: https://doi.org/10.22323/2.16040601

  • Eitzel, M. V., Cappadonna, J. L., Santos-Lang, C., Duerr, R. E., Virapongse, A., West, S. E., Kyba, C. C. M., Bowser, A., Cooper, C. B., Sforzi, A., Metcalfe, A. N., Harris, E. S., Thiel, M., Haklay, M., Ponciano, L., Roche, J., Ceccaroni, L., Shilling, F. M., Dörler, D., Heigl, F., Kiessling, T., Davis, B. Y., & Jiang, Q. (2017). Citizen Science Terminology Matters: Exploring Key Terms. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 2(1), 1–20. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.96

  • Roche, J., Bell, L., Galvão, C., Golumbic, Y. N., Kloetzer, L., Knoben, N., Laakso, M., Lorke, J., Mannion, G., Massetti, L., Mauchline, A., Pata, K., Ruck, A., Taraba, P., & Winter, S. (2020). Citizen Science, Education, and Learning: Challenges and Opportunities. Frontiers in Sociology, 5(613814), 1-10. DOI: 10.3389/fsoc.2020.613814

  • Kloetzer, L., Lorke, J., Roche, J., Golumbic, Y., Winter, S., & Jõgeva, A. (2021). Learning in Citizen Science. In K. Vohland, A. Land-Zandstra, L. Ceccaroni, R. Lemmens, J. Perelló, M. Ponti, R. Samson, & K. Wagenknecht (Eds.), The Science of Citizen Science (pp. 283-308). Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58278-4_15

  • Roche, J., Ni Shuilleabhain, A., Mooney, P., Barber, G. L., Bell, L., & Ryan, C. (2021). Citizen Science in Ireland. Frontiers in Communication, 6(629065), 1-8. DOI: 10.3389/fcomm.2021.629065

Funders

  • European Commission Horizon 2020 (Grant agreement No. 824580)

  • COST Action (CA15212)

  • Science Foundation Ireland (Discover Programme)

  • Irish Research Council (New Foundations Award)

  • Trinity College (Arts and Social Sciences Benefactions Fund)

Enterprise Ireland European CommissionIrish Research Council Science Foundation IrelandWellcome Trust

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