Citizen science: empowering citizens to address global challenges

Citizen science is an important vehicle for democratising science and promoting the goal of universal and equitable access to scientific data and information. Recently IIASA, a research centre that actively contributes to developing this scientific approach, led a primer in Nature Methods Reviews Primers entitled ‘Citizen science in environmental and ecological sciences’. The paper’s co-lead authors are Gerid Hager, a researcher in the Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group of the IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis Program and Dilek Fraisl, a researcher in the same group at IIASA. Jaume PieraICM-CSIC researcher, CREAF associate researcher and the Cos4Cloud coordinator, also contributed to this article as a co-author. 

BioMARató, Barcelona. Credit: Anèl·lides-Serveis ambietals marins.

The paper highlights how citizens can contribute meaningfully to scientific research, thereby becoming an integral part of integrated and evidence-based knowledge creation needed to address some of today’s most pressing challenges, including environmental pollution, food security, biodiversity loss, or the climate crisis. The authors also call attention to the impacts and great potential of citizen science for monitoring progress on ambitious global efforts like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), large-scale data collection, and as a viable means to close data gaps and support inclusive decision-making.

Discovering marine biodiversity through citizen science

In particular, Piera’s contribution to this paper focused on explaining two citizen science BioBlitzs: UrbamarBio -co-led by the marine environmental education and outreach organisation ‘Anèl-lides‘ and the ICM-CSIC- and BioMARató -organised by the ICM-CSIC-. During these activities, hundreds of volunteers collected marine species images on Catalan urban beaches and uploaded them to the citizen science platform MINKA. Thanks to the observations volunteers uploaded to MINKA over four years, Barcelona City Council created a new layer in its Biodiversity Altas focused on marine biodiversity. Cos4Cloud has collaborated in the organisation of these two activities. 

“UrbamarBio & BioMARató BioBlitzes demonstrated the power of citizen science for both (1) helping citizens realise that the urban beaches have a huge biodiversity richness and (2) providing useful data for biodiversity monitoring and research.”

Jaume Piera, ICM-CSIC researcher, CREAF associate researcher and the Cos4Cloud coordinator and one of the authors of this article.

This piece of news is based on the original press release that IIASA’s communications team produced. Read the full press release at this link

Original article

Fraisl, D., Hager, G., Bedessem, B., Gold, M., Hsing, P-Y., Danielsen, F., Hitchcock, C.B., Hulbert, J.M., Piera, J., Spiers, H., Thiel, M., Haklay, M. (2022). Citizen science in environmental and ecological sciences. Nature Methods Reviews Primers DOI: 10.1038/s43586-022-00144-4 [PrimeView]

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