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Ten principles of citizen science

Citizen science, the active participation of the public in scientific research projects, is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open innovation. This chapter sets out to identify and explain the Ten Principles of Citizen Science.

Sarah West / Published on 15 October 2018

Robinson L.D., Cawthray, J.L., West, S.E., Bonn, A., & Ansine, J. (2018). Ten principles of citizen science. In S. Hecker, M. Haklay, A. Bowser, Z. Makuch, J. Vogel, & A. Bonn. Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. London, UCL Press. 1–23.

Photo - Citizen Scientists doing a bug count for OPAL - Photo Rachel Pateman

Citizen science is an all inclusive activity. Here, families take part in a bug count for the OPAL project. Photo: Rachel Pateman.

The ten principles are intended as a framework of standards to foster excellence in all aspects of citizen science.

They were developed by an international community of citizen science practitioners and researchers who set out their shared view of the characteristics that underpin high quality citizen science. The principles are currently available in 26 languages.

The Ten Principles provide a framework against which to assess new and existing citizen science initiatives with the aim of fostering excellence in all aspects of citizen science. At a time when citizen science is rapidly expanding but not yet mainstreamed within traditional research or policy processes, the Ten Principles provide governments, decision-makers, researchers and project leaders with a common set of core principles to consider when funding, developing or assessing citizen science projects.

Ten Principles of Citizen Science

These principles are also available in other languages.

  1. Citizen science projects actively involve citizens in scientific endeavour that generates new knowledge or understanding. Citizens may act as contributors, collaborators or as project leaders and have a meaningful role in the project.
  2. Citizen science projects have a genuine science outcome. For example, answering a research question or informing conservation action, management decisions or environmental policy.
  3. Both the professional scientists and the citizen scientists benefit from taking part. Benefits may include the publication of research outputs, learning opportunities, personal enjoyment, social benefits, satisfaction through contributing to scientific evidence, for example, to address local, national and international issues, and through that, the potential to influence policy.
  4. Citizen scientists may, if they wish, participate in multiple stages of the scientific process. This may include developing the research question, designing the method, gathering and analysing data, and communicating the results.
  5. Citizen scientists receive feedback from the project. For example, how their data are being used and what the research, policy or societal outcomes are.
  6. Citizen science is considered a research approach like any other, with limitations and biases that should be considered and controlled for. However unlike traditional research approaches, citizen science provides opportunity for greater public engagement and democratisation of science.
  7. Citizen science project data and metadata are made publicly available and where possible, results are published in an open-access format. Data sharing may occur during or after the project, unless there are security or privacy concerns that prevent this.
  8. Citizen scientists are acknowledged in project results and publications.
  9. Citizen science programmes are evaluated for their scientific output, data quality, participant experience and wider societal or policy impact.
  10. The leaders of citizen science projects take into consideration legal and ethical issues surrounding copyright, intellectual property, data-sharing agreements, confidentiality, attribution and the environmental impact of any activities.

About the book

Citizen science, the active participation of the public in scientific research projects, is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open  innovation. It provides an integrated model of public knowledge production and engagement with science. As a growing worldwide phenomenon, it is invigorated  by evolving new technologies that connect people easily and effectively with the scientific community. Catalysed by citizens’ wishes to be actively involved in  scientific processes, as a result of recent societal trends, it also offers contributions to the rise in tertiary education. In addition, citizen science provides a valuable tool for citizens to play a more active role in sustainable development.

Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy identifies and explains the role of citizen science within innovation in science and society, and as a vibrant and productive science-policy interface. The scope of this volume is global, geared towards identifying solutions and lessons to be applied across  science, practice and policy. The chapters consider the role of citizen science in the context of the wider agenda of open science and open innovation, and discusses progress towards responsible research and innovation, two of the most critical aspects of science today.

SEI author

Sarah West

Centre Director

SEI York

Design and development by Soapbox.