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Community-driven Citizen Science

Citizen science describes the practice of people who are not professional scientists collecting and/or analyzing data as part of larger research projects1, 2, 3. When citizen science is community-driven, it addresses community questions and priorities—and might involve community members in all aspects of the research process, beyond just data collection. Some researchers and practitioners draw sharp lines between citizen science and community science, typically by categorizing citizen science as scientist-led, whereas community science is community-led and focuses on directing research into collective action for community-problem solving and environmental and social justice4, 5. Some may  also refer to this concept as community citizen science4, 6. Although much of citizen science is not community science7, it includes many approaches that can be used in community science. Generally, citizen science can feature a wide range of activities, and the definitions and boundaries of this practice are dynamic and not always clear or agreed upon8. Often, citizen science involves crowdsourcing data to collectively build a greater understanding of the phenomena that make up our environments, world, and universe8, 9. In particular, citizen science generally relies on open access technologies and other resources for collecting, sharing, and analyzing data among larger communities connected through their interest in a potential science topic or project2. Citizen science projects and events can be community science when they empower people to conduct research in and with their communities. The NOISE Project is a community-led scientific research project that draws on citizen science approaches to collect, analyze, and share data on noise pollution and its impacts on community health. Community representatives from underserved communities lead the project together and co-create research approaches, tools, and metrics. 

1Susanne Hecker et al., eds., Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy (London, UK: UCL Press, 2018).

2“G-7 Science Academies Release Statements on Science and Trust, Artificial Intelligence, Citizen Science,” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, April 6, 2019).

3National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Learning through Citizen Science: Enhancing Opportunities by Design (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2018).

4Shannon Dosemagen, “Exploring the Roots: The Evolution of Civic and Community Science,” April 14, 2020.

5Julie Gipple, “When Science Is Social: Alumna Heidi Ballard Discusses Opportunities for Education and Research,” Breakthroughs (Rausser College of Natural Resources, 2019).

6Ramya Chari et al., “The Promise of Community Citizen Science,” 2017.

7Caren B. Cooper et al., “Inclusion in Citizen Science: The Conundrum of Rebranding,” Science 372, no. 6549 (2021): pp. 1386-1388.

8M V Eitzel et al., “Citizen Science Terminology Matters: Exploring Key Terms,” Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 2, no. 1 (May 2017): p. 1.

9James Wynn, Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2017).