Citizen science is all about getting the public involved in scientific research, making use of the power of collaboration and volunteer networks to explore or collect large data sets. In environmental sciences, this is often through collecting data, though volunteers can also be involved in experimental design, data analysis, volunteer coordination and many other aspects of the research. Citizen science allows data collection to be expanded over a wider area or higher frequency, successfully collecting the large amount of data required to understand the environment – typically prohibitively high for a traditional research project. At the same time, those involved gain a greater understanding of scientific processes, feel confidence and pride in contributing to an important wider project, and develop a greater connection to their local environment. Important factors to consider when setting up a citizen science scheme to collect environmental data include:
- How long will each survey take? Will the level of commitment appeal to enough people?
- Does the method require volunteers to be trained? How will this training take place?
- How will the data be collected? There are online services and apps available which can be used to collect public-sourced data, and it important to research the most suitable one for the project.
- Will the data need to be checked for errors? Who is able to do this?
- How will the data be analysed and used?
- How will you keep in contact with the volunteers? Volunteers will be interested in how their information is being used, and this will keep people engaged if you require them to continue surveying over time.
In order to keep their interest, it’s important to keep them informed and involved with the research. Remember to thank them by for instance organising a certain event dedicated to them.