The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is a non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom set up in 2000. It is responsible for protecting public health in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is led by a board appointed to act in the public interest.
Citizen science is an innovative participatory research method that actively involves citizens in scientific enquiry to generate new knowledge or understanding. There is no one definition of the method but citizen science projects essentially involve engaging with communities and seeking their participation in a form of data collection and co-creation. As such outputs are varied but commonly result in a large data set or detailed individual/household data or new insights. The method has been endorsed by the European Commission for Research, Science and Innovation as a method well suited for policy issues and is a key part of their Science with and for Society work programme (SWAFS 2020).
As part of their commitment to exploring innovative methods and their application to priority research areas, the Food Standards Agency are keen to explore citizen science methods and increase capability in this area. This document is a rapid evidence review of citizen science methods, focusing on how they can be applied to the FSA priority areas. The desired impact of this review is to target and facilitate more systematic engagement with UK (and global) research communities to harness citizen science methods to address key research questions and themes of the FSA. Adopting citizen science methods as part of the FSAs methodological toolkit could be transformative to the FSA and the communities it serves.
The literature reviewed in this document highlights that citizen science benefits the research community, citizens of diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, policy makers and wider society. In particular, citizen science can help the FSA increase public awareness about (food) science, and create a feeling of wider ownership of FSA policies.
Citizen science also has the potential to help the FSA and other policy makers formulate informed and targeted policies; monitor implementation and compliance with regulations; and it can enable faster and evidence-informed reactions to events.