Citizen science


Carlo Cerrano - Stefano Goffredo - Donata Luiselli - Chiara Marchini - Francesco Regoli

The concept of Citizen Science (CS), or "participatory science", represents the involvement and active and aware participation of citizens from different ages, backgrounds and social status, in scientific research activities.

CS projects have had considerable success in advancing scientific knowledge in different sectors, from neuroscience to medicine and information technology, from climatology to astronomy, to biology and ecology.

One of the first CS projects, the "Christmas Bird Count" has been carried out annually in the United States by the National Audubon Society since 1900. The idea originated from the ornithologist John James Audubon, who thought of transforming the traditional Christmas hunting trips into a survey and count of different bird species.

Today, thanks to new technologies, CS is constantly validated as an approach capable of providing effective monitoring systems in order to track the ecological and social impacts of environmental changes, on large spatial and temporal scales. Government agencies, research institutes and universities often do not have sufficient funds and staff to carry out large-scale monitoring. CS thus becomes an exceptionally important research tool that allows researchers to collect huge amounts of data in a short period. Volunteers who participate in CS projects not only collect useful data for scientific research, but also become part of the scientific process by increasing their knowledge and awareness of research topics.

This survey method can be contested due to reported limitations regarding the reliability of the data collected by the volunteers. Although literature today tends to deny this perspective, the role of researchers in integrating each CS project with data reliability methods remains of fundamental importance.