How “Responsible” is the Citizen Science?

22. July 2016by ECSA
ECSA News - Engage
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How “Responsible” is the Citizen Science?

by Caren Cooper, Fermin Serrano & Claudia Göbel

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a concept promoted by EU research and innovation policy. One examples is the Science with and for Society (SwafS) programme, which provides funding opportunities for the engagement of research with society. RRI is linked to the big question of what kind of research we need for being well, today and in the future. RRI is defined as “an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation”. Thus, in order to be “responsible”, research does not only have to be excellent (by adding to the shared knowledge of the scientific community) and useful (e.g. by producing new treatments or patents), but it also has to address the needs, values and expectations of our societies (e.g. by spending money on particle accelerators as well as on technologies for reducing carbon emissions or assisting ageing people). Furthermore, “responsible” research must take into account the consequences of new discoveries (e.g. destruction of the environment or improvements in well-being). By building stronger ties between science and society, the RRI approach seeks to contribute to a more sustainable future.

The global challenges we are facing are huge. They inluce climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean pollution and acidification, and many more.RRI is a promising approach to help address these grand challenges in many ways (see for an overview of dimensions). One key idea of how to achieve Responsible Research and Innovation is by involving people and organizations from various sectors of society, e.g. citizens, policy makers, NGOs and businesses, directly in the reseach processes. Other key aspects include issues related to ethics, Open Access, and gender equality.

Given the inherent participatory nature of citizen science, merely adopting citizen science methodologies is an excellent start to craft research to align with RRI princiles. For example, citizen science can improve social inclusion in a wider scientific community, engage citizens in decisions related to research and innovation, and promote scientific literacy. But, opportunities for particiation and co-creation vary greatly and so it is apt to reflect on whether and how citizen science projects can themselves become more responsible.

In order to address these issues, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and the project have recently signed an agreement to explore how citizen science can enrich the RRI framework and to promote RRI considerations among citizen science communities. The working group devoted to promote and reflect RRI within ECSA is preparing a policy paper on the topic. Also, this group is adaptating a self-reflection tool, originally created by the RRI Tools Project. The self-reflection tool will provide citizen science institutions and practitioners with a guide to concrete issues and operational aspects of RRI to consider when designing and running new projects. The outputs designed to stimulate discussion on how citizen science and RRI can enrich each other are expected to be ready by the end of 2016.

Both Citizen Science and RRI are concepts covering a wide range of issues and we hope to engage YOU in exploring how these concepts intersect and can be mutually supporting. In order to start to collectively address questions about the intersection of citizen science and RRI and to get initial feedback, ECSA and Caren Cooper will run a series of #CitSciChat sessions focused on the topic: Is Citizen Science an approach for “Responsible” research? These Twitter sessions will address good practices and useful resources related to the six main pillars of RRI applied to the citizen science practices: Open Access, Gender equality, Ethics, Governance, Science Education and Public Engagement.

Everyone is invited to join the discussion on Wednesday, 27  July 2016 at 17h CEST (which corresponds to 16:00 GMT, 12:00 EDT and 09:00 PDT. Simply follow the hashtag #CitSciChat on Twitter.

We have the following guest panelists from around the world the first #CitSciChat session in this series:

Aleksandra Berditchevskaia, Knowledge Transfer Manager at Tekiu

Alice Sheppard, ExCiteS comunity manager at the UCL

Fermin Serrano, Executive Director at Fundación Ibercivis

Jessie Cappadonna, Management Committee Member at the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA)

Jorge Barrero, General Manager at Fundación COTEC

Margaret Gold, Director of the The Mobile Collective, Member of Board of Directors at European Citizen Science Association

Norbert Steinhaus, Project coordinator at Bonn Science Shop, partner of RRI-Tools, Living Knowledge Network

And as host

Caren B. Cooper, Assistant Head of the Biodiversity Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

>> To see how the #CitSciChat went go here.

This event is realized in cooperation with the the H2020 project Doing-it-Together-Sciences (DITOs) and the Observatory of Citizen Science in Spain. More info at: and

The DITOs project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 709443.

The Observatory of Citizen Science in Spain is an initiative of Ibercivis with the support of FECYT.


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Copyright by European Citizen Science Association (ECSA). All rights reserved.

Webdesign by Goldweiss