In the last decades, the open science and citizen science movements have contributed in making science more democratic, accessible and approachable by non-experts. However, there is growing interest in how to make sure participatory activities such as citizen science projects are actually reaching samples of people that, in terms of diversity, are representative of society in general. Although there is a lack of extensive studies on the matter, many in the citizen science community feel there’s still much work to be done to reach participants other that “the usual suspects” – science enthusiasts and people already interested in scientific research – and, in particular, to reach minority communities, and people from different age groups and education levels.
An interesting read on the subject is the paper “Inclusiveness and Diversity in Citizen Science“, published in January 2021 in The Science of Citizen Science (Springer). In the paper, the authors point out that:
As projects in citizen science grow, the number of volunteers will increase in turn. However, there should be a major research interest in the motivations of voluntary participation if we take into account different axes of discrimination. Just as motivations differ between individuals, they also may differ for the same person at different times (Clary et al. 1992; Ryan et al. 2001). In other words, it is necessary to understand the cultural, social, economic, and natural barriers that currently stand in the way of volunteering involvement (Roy et al. 2012). Using inclusive approaches, which are at the core of the citizen science movement, could be a solution. There is already an observable shift in the field from the focus on participation per se to the importance of inclusive participation.
[…] One evolution that can be observed in this area is that more communities are devising and leading their own citizen science projects (Ballard et al. 2018; Mahr et al. 2018) providing practitioners the opportunity to support grassroots community involvement throughout the research process. […]
At the European level, in 2018, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) set up a working group – Empowerment, Inclusiveness and Equity4 – to establish collaborations with other approaches as community-based research (CBR), transdisciplinary research, and participatory action research. The goal is that more people from diverse backgrounds can participate in citizen science and other activities with collaborative approaches, shape them according to their wishes, and generate impacts that address their needs.
The authors then introduce inclusiveness approaches and trends developed in different international contexts, focusing in particular on strategies applied in projects within the EU research framework programmes. One of the projects under analysis is D-NOSES, developed by NEWSERA Partner Ibercivis, as a project proposing a model to tackle inclusiveness within stakeholder engagement.
To learn more on citizen science and inclusivity, we also recommend to check out this webinar by the OeAD-Zentrum für Citizen Science:
(Science for everyone? Hard-to-reach groups in citizen science and science communication)
When: May 18, 2PM – 4 PM
With a claim to democratize science and actively involve the general public, science communication and citizen science are increasingly turning their attention to so-called “hard-to-reach target groups”. But who or what are target groups that are difficult to reach? Which strategies are found to be helpful and effective? How can diversity and inclusion be guaranteed?
The OeAD Center for Citizen Science would like to reflect on these questions with experts from different areas, disciplines and institutions in the context of a keynote and a subsequent panel discussion and show through practical examples how “hard-to-reach groups” can be reached in the best possible way.
The webinar is in German. More info on how to register here.
A recent article on the online magazine The Conversation offers a compelling take on the matter of inclusivity in science research, and a possible reframing of the definition of citizen science itself. While citizen science is striving for inclusivity, according to the authors it should also take into consideration that by defining its possible targets as “citizens” it may incur in an involuntary selection, excluding minority groups like migrants. And in countries dealing with the legacy of colonialism, it may even exclude some indigenous communities. Therefore, they propose the expression “tracking science” as a new term that could be used complementarily to citizen science, to expand its meaning and include other contributions to scientific knowledge regardless of origin.
Typically, “science” and “scientist” are associated with someone who has had academic training at a higher education institution. Tracking science is defined as a process that involves empirical observation, experimentation, and causal inference through scientific hypothetico-deductive reasoning. It includes the creation and testing of hypotheses and theories and making novel predictions. It also comprises critical discussion and peer review, with the purpose of producing scientific knowledge about the world, regardless of who participates.
Tracking science is defined not in terms of its participants, but as a process of knowledge production. Anyone can be included in the process. It expands scientific endeavour and exploration beyond academia, professional science and the participatory models of citizen science managed by academics.
Find the full article on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Macrovector Official