STREAM 2: Participative science: encouraging the best in citizen science

Stream Moderator
Dr Will Grant
Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science
Brains Trust
Dr John La Salle
Director of the Atlas of Living Australia
Brains Trust
Peta Ashworth
Leader, Science into Society Group CSIRO

Workshop 1: 12.00pm – 1.30pm
Workshop 2: 2.30pm – 4.00pm

How can the platforms and processes of citizen science be used to deliver public science engagement activities across Australia? What are the most valuable ways for science communicators, practitioners and the public to work together? For the purposes of the Summit:

• Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing.

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Great points by Craig, sounds like it was a good discussion. I'd like to suggest a couple of additions to Issue 1: Research Scientists don't take it seriously

- Researchers often worry about the validity of data collected/analysed by volunteers. So we need to develop & share methods of validating citizen science data that result in credible datasets, and we need to share this working to persuade others of the merits of citizen science overall.

- Citizen science is both a research exercise and a public engagement exercise. I think having separate goals for research & public engagement, with clear success measures (e.g. peer-reviewed papers for the research goal and, say, the number of sign-ups for the public engagement goal) will help citizen science projects to be taken seriously, both as research exercises and as public engagement exercises. 

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

The top three impediments and proposed solutions from yesterday's workshop. What do you think"

Stream Two: Citizen Science

Issue 1: Research Scientists don’t take it seriously


Promote success stories

Get peer-reviewed papers

-- Use the ‘values’ of scientists and get peer-reviewed papers published that are respected by scientists.

Issue 2: Mismatched expectations


Involve the community from the outset in refining questions and designing processes to achieve shared objectives

-- Develop best practice models of citizen science that look at the impediments and solutions achieved, and promote them widely for other citizen science projects to use.

Issue 3: How to resource training and data management


Make funds available for grants for citizen science.

Use open access data.

-- Granting bodies to develop ‘pilot’ grants for citizen science with science mentor and seek to publish results.


Fascinating topic. I think participative science is broader than citizen science. Participative science includes situations where a member of the public is participating without assuming the role or practices of a scientist. For example, volunteers might answer a survey designed to survey the population's psychological characteristics. In this situation, the volunteer is acting as a subject. I think 'citizen science' is when a member of the general public takes on the role of a scientist by collecting/analysing data. I'm not trying to imply a value judgement - they're both valuable - but I think they're different.



If we ask ourselves and citizen scientists, "What is the difference between ‘seeing’ something and ‘watching’ it in a scientific way?" do we also need to explore the way in which the focus of scientific observation can narrow the 'watching' to a point wher we a become less able to see connection to the whole....the seeing that some citizen scinetists (particularyindigneous peoples) have a real insight into?

willozap 1 Like

Here's another thing we're wondering: - The scientist / citizen scientist divide has emerged only recently. In fact, Darwin, Mendel and Wallace were citizen scientists. Is this an artificial divide that actually prevents citizen scientists from being more actively included in science projects?

willozap 1 Like

Here's something we're wondering: is citizen science just glorified tech support, a way of outsourcing the repetitive and mindless aspects of science? To build on Craig's question below, what would be an effective mechanism to ensure that citizen scientists are increasing their knowledge and scientific skills base through participating in projects?

lisushi 1 Like

@willozapor even just finding out what the results and impacts of the research they contributed to are.

 One of the great things about citizen science projects is that they can go beyond civic science engagement.  Urban wildlife logging type projects can cultivate peoples connection and pride in their local community and natural environments.

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

Okay, a very BIG question for all panel streams - are we too distracted by the word 'Science'? Is Science our obsession - and should we rather be talking less about the Process and more about the Endgame, such as:

- Environmental sustainability

- Productive industries

- Better health services

- More informed citizens

- Being healthier, wealthier and wiser etc etc etc?

willozap 1 Like

@Craig Cormick Yes. I think the word 'science' is useful in certain circumstances, but can often do more harm than good.

Craig Cormick
Craig Cormick 1 Like

What happens when citizen science goes from using citizens as primarily data collectors or providing their input to a toic, to civic science where citizens want to be strongly involved in the direction and uses of the scientific research being conducted? What blockers in the current sytem would prevent this, and would it be a good or bad thing to encourage??

Claire Harris
Claire Harris 1 Like

Yes, interesting post. I'm keen to see real examples of participatory research with info on the need, how it was identified and by who, what rolled out and worked and didn't... I'm probably ignorant of where I can find some more recent examples, so if anyone has some examples?...

willozap 1 Like

@Claire Harris There's also the model of citizen science demonstrated by lone individuals, outside the standard scientific process, contributing their own information about the world. A great (the difficult) example is the lone citizen scientist who added Radon gas measurements during the earthquake swarms before the big quake in L'Aquila. The establishment didn't like this, and reacted badly...

fuzzleonard 1 Like

@willozap @Claire Harris The above comment should be read to the tune of the Knight Rider theme song.

amg2013 1 Like

participative science sounds like a great idea .. how does it work in practice and how is it funded?

jazz_vibes 1 Like

Most successful citizen science projects are 'serious' games on Flash. The next generation should be mobile games through facebook or a CSIRO app

Claire Harris
Claire Harris 1 Like

@jazz_vibes Games would be great and really engaging activities that are both learning tools and capturing information that feeds into research. By the way CSIRO does have an app - it is aimed at agricultural advisors and other needing soil information. It enables people out in the field to find out what soil is near them and they can upload their own data to their own Yield Prophet (ag system model) profile. There are other apps in the pipeline and the value of citizen science aspects cannot be underestimated!


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