Global Young Academy 5th International Conference for Young Scientists 2015

What Impact Can Citizen Science Have on Public Attitude Towards Science in Society?

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of David Lang article on

Discussion Group Leader: Laura Petes, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
If you wish to return to the summary of themes discussed at the Interactive Session (10:30am — 12:00pm) please click here.

What is Citizen Science?

  • Non-scientists doing science
  • Science outside of frame of traditional science
  • Way to engage citizens in collecting large data sets e.g., amateur astronomers, birders, etc.
  • Traditional and indigenous knowledge — work with scientists to blend local knowledge and hard science
  • Accessible science. Public, no barriers. Opportunity to attract people to science
  • Popular science. Science for citizens. Make information available in simple ways that is clearly communicated.
  • Influence of citizens on policy making — can inform decisions.
  • Adaptable to change
  • Helps to address mistrust of science e.g., with vaccines
  • Form of engagement
  • Trend towards more two-way relationships between science and society
  • Much social science is based on citizen science

Challenges and Opportunities of Citizen Science

  • Education on risk and uncertainty
  • Limitations of using data collected by non-scientists
  • “Language” barriers between scientists and citizens
  • Have to ensure that results are validated
  • Not always respect from the scientific community
  • Is the media the new peer-review process?
  • Peer reviewers or funding agencies may not see the data as credible
  • Need to educate observers in scientific process
  • Need to establish a code of practice
  • Establishing training and best practices but not being burdensome or too time-consuming
  • Ability to have relationships between scientists and citizens depends on scale of project
  • Need to avoid exploitation


  • Establish pathways for citizens to provide new ideas
  • Who defines the project and articulates the need? [shouldn’t all come from the scientists]
  • Research should focus on community needs. Need to refresh idea of “impact factor”
  • Need for incentives for scientists — not currently in traditional academic structures
  • Use of media and social media
  • Engage not just “citizens” but also journalists, politicians, etc
  • “Politicians-in-Residence”

Written by

Aletheia Guild

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store