Open science and research

Citizen Science

Citizen science and citizens’ participation have emerged as new models of scientific research. Citizen science refers to engaging the public in research following scientifically valid methodologies and frequently carried out with web-based platforms and social media.

Citizen science

According to UNESCO’s Open Science Recommendation, open engagement refers to extended collaboration between scientists and societal actors beyond the scientific community, by opening up practices and tools and by making the scientific process more inclusive and accessible to the broader inquiring society. This is possible thanks to new forms of collaboration and work such as crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and scientific volunteering.

Open science provides the basis for citizen and community involvement and for an enhanced dialogue between scientists, policymakers and practitioners, entrepreneurs and community members, giving all stakeholders a voice in developing research that is compatible with their concerns, needs and aspirations.

Both citizen science and open science are emerging movements becoming more significant. Citizen Science & Open Science Community of Practice groups have written a paper Global Citizen Science perspectives on Open Science to show their many themes, dynamics and shared characteristics.

National Recommendation on Citizen Science

A national recommendation on citizen science was published in April 2022.

The national recommendation defines the three requirements for citizen science: 

  1. Citizen scientists are involved in at least one stage of the research.
  2. Citizens are not the objects of the research but they act as researchers.
  3. A trained researcher leads the research.

The recommendation emphasises that there are different levels of participation in citizen science (Haklay, 2013): 

Level 1: Crowdsourcing. Citizens as sensors, volunteered computing

Level 2: Distributed Intelligence. Citizens as basic interpreters and volunteered thinking

Level 3: Participatory science. Participation in problem definition and data collection

Level 4: Extreme citizen science. Collaborative science – problem definition, data collection and analysis.

The objectives of the recommendation are minimum and ideal level requirements directed mostly to research organisations:

  1. The organisation should have guidelines on citizen science available for researchers.
  2. Researcher should get help with communication in citizen science projects.
  3. Citizen science projects should have similar financial possibilities as other projects.
  4. Researchers should be offered training on citizen science.
  5. Researchers should get legal aid in citizen science projects.
  6. It should be possible to get support for the use of the most common citizen science platforms.

International Resources on Citizen Science

European Citizen Science Association's (ECSA) mission is to connect citizens and science, to promote sustainable development through citizen science, and to ensure that citizen science contributes to policy processes.

According to ECSA, the key principles of citizen science are the following 

  1. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in scientific endeavour that generates new knowledge or understanding. Citizens may act as contributors, collaborators, or as project leader and have a meaningful role in the project.
  2. Citizen science projects have a genuine science outcome. For example, answering a research question or informing conservation action, management decisions or environmental policy.
  3. Both the professional scientists and the citizen scientists benefit from taking part. Benefits may include the publication of research outputs, learning opportunities, personal enjoyment, social benefits, satisfaction through contributing to scientific evidence e.g. to address local, national and international issues, and through that, the potential to influence policy.
  4. Citizen scientists may, if they wish, participate in multiple stages of the scientific process. This may include developing the research question, designing the method, gathering and analysing data, and communicating the results.
  5. Citizen scientists receive feedback from the project. For example, how their data are being used and what the research, policy or societal outcomes are.
  6. Citizen science is considered a research approach like any other, with limitations and biases that should be considered and controlled for. However unlike traditional research approaches, citizen science provides opportunity for greater public engagement and democratisation of science.
  7. Citizen science project data and meta-data are made publicly available and where possible, results are published in an open access format. Data sharing may occur during or after the project, unless there are security or privacy concerns that prevent this.
  8. Citizen scientists are acknowledged in project results and publications.
  9. Citizen science programmes are evaluated for their scientific output, data quality, participant experience and wider societal or policy impact.
  10. The leaders of citizen science projects take into consideration legal and ethical issues surrounding copyright, intellectual property, data sharing agreements, confidentiality, attribution, and the environmental impact of any activities.

Another excellent resource is EU Citizen Science Platform for sharing citizen science projects, resources, tools, and training (e.g. Foundations of citizen science, Basic regulations and ethics for citizen science, and Evaluation and impact assessment in citizen science projects).

LIBER (Association of European Research Libraries) has published a practical guide designed to assist those organising and participating in a citizen science project  Citizen Science for Research Libraries — A Guide. Citizen Science Skilling for Library Staff, Researchers, and the Public (2021).

According to the guide "Citizen science as a scientific discipline is inevitably linked to the creation of data: identifying which data may answer your questions by using citizen science, attracting citizens and other stakeholders interested in the data, collecting data, telling the story of the data, and repurposing data. Citizen science can increase scientific literacy by use of data."

Citizen science at Aalto University

Aalto University’s researchers have published on citizen science. Below are some examples of recent publications in the research portal. Other research outputs, activities, press and media and projects that have citizen science as a keyword are found under this search.

Have a look at other national open science policies and recommendations

National Open Scholarship Policy

Finland was one of the first countries to publish an open scholarship policy in 2022. The policy includes, among others, recommendations for citizen science and business collaboration.

Open Scholarship by Dora

Recommendation on Business Collaboration

Open Science Recommendation and Checklist for Collaborative Research, Development and Innovation in Research Organizations and Business .

Handshake Berdea, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

National Declaration, Policies and Recommendations of Open Science and Reasearch

The open science declaration provides a common direction for and outlines a vision, where open science and research are seamlessly integrated in researchers' everyday work.
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