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Landmark new report on citizen science and biodiversity

November 28, 2012

Citizen science seems to be all the rage at the moment.  Advances in web technologies and mobile computing (smartphones) promise exciting opportunities for widening the engagement of people in  biodiversity science.  However, until now scientists and policy makers have lacked an overview of the field – what is the scope of environmental citizen science?, to what extent does it support policy? what is the quality of the data produced?, what technologies are being used and how are volunteers motivated to participate?

These crucial questions are convincingly answered in a superb study commissioned by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF) and launched last week. Titled ‘Understanding Citizen Science and Environmental Monitoring‘ colleagues from the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Natural History Museum (London) conducted a semi-systematic review of 234 English-Language citizen science projects.  The BioFresh blog spoke over Skype video to the report’s lead author, Dr. Helen Roy

As well as a section providing clear assessments of the state of key aspects of environmental citizen science, the report contains some really useful typologies and summary tables and an annex that presents 2-page summaries of over 30 projects. All in all the report represents an invaluable resource and advance on our knowledge of citizen science. Given the scale of freshwater-based recreations there is clearly much more that freshwater scientists could be doing in this area. This report provides a source of inspiration and advice, puts to rest concerns over data quality, and reminds us that enrolling volunteers doesn’t necessarily equate to cheap science.

Paul Jepson

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