COS 104-5 - Redefining citizen science: A catalyst to broaden the knowledge base and insights for sustainability in a rapidly changing world

Thursday, August 11, 2011: 2:50 PM
Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center
Corrie Knapp, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK and F. Stuart Chapin III, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK

Climate change is a global process with local impacts that are heterogeneous and cascade across scales. The speed and complexity of the projected changes require that communities, agencies and government entities develop new methods to collect information, decipher trends and implications, and respond to change. Citizen science has the potential to provide additional observations and hypotheses in local places that could inform our understanding of global change. This project reviews the existing literature on citizen science to explore how it is currently being used and to think about innovative future uses.  We searched web of science to identify relevant articles using the terms: “citizen science”, “participatory research” and “community-based research”. Abstracts were reviewed and coded to identify the definition and use of citizen science. Where relevant, full articles were reviewed and coded to understand innovative uses of citizen science. We used NVIVO qualitative software to code and analyze results and then organized the results into tables to understand the quantitative and qualitative trends in the literature.


Preliminary results show that citizen science is most commonly seen as a process where citizens collect data from scientists.  However, a sub-set of articles suggest innovative definitions and trajectories for citizen science that empower communities to link information across scales, identify their own research questions, and provide observations that may inform both their questions and broader scientific practice.  This project identifies current assumptions about the role of citizens in science and suggests new directions for harnessing not only the hands, but also the minds, experience, and knowledge of citizens for more responsive management in a context of rapid change.  We explore options for citizen science that include communicating local knowledge across scales and translating science for local applications. Citizen science could play a catalytic role in identifying opportunities and engaging broad public support for locally appropriate transformations toward sustainability.

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