Traditional data sources are not sufficient for measuring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). New and non-traditional sources of data are required. Citizen science is an emerging example of a non-traditional data source that is already making a contribution.

Advances in technology and the proliferation of data are providing new opportunities for monitoring and tracking the progress of the SDGs. As the latest framework for assessing and monitoring the alleviation of poverty, inequalities and environmental degradation, progress on meeting the 17 SDGs is evaluated through reporting on a hierarchy of 169 targets and 232 indicators. It is here, the authors argue, that data produced through ‘citizen science’, which is the involvement of citizens in scientific research and/or knowledge production, can complement and ultimately improve the SDG reporting process. They demonstrate the value of using data from citizen science for the SDGs, providing concrete examples of how such data are currently being adopted in support of existing SDG indicators and their potential for contributing to future indicators.

They start by examining issues related to traditional data used in SDG reporting and how the emergence of new sources can fill data gaps. They then place citizen science in the broader context of these non-traditional data streams available for SDG reporting, and highlight the value of citizen-science data for the SDGs.

They conclude with a roadmap containing a set of actions for mainstreaming the use of data from citizen science into official SDG reporting at global and national levels, with a proposal for supporting activities at the local level.