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Our understanding of CS

As a starting definition, Mäkipää et al. (2020) define Citizen Science as following: “Citizen science refers to partnerships between scientists and the public in their everyday lives in scientific research”. This very broad definition just defines the collaboration between scientists and the public. A more comprehensive definition (for Citizen Science in the Information Systems domain is given by Levy & Germonprez (2017): “Citizen science […] is a partnership between […] researchers and people in their everyday lives. Citizen science projects […] involve a) […] phenomenon of interest to both citizens and scientists, b) the intervention of citizens in the collection, collaboration, or co-creation of scientific endeavors for the purposes of scientific literacy education and a more informed public, and c) citizens themselves not being the direct subject of scientific inquiry”. This definition includes one of the key aspects when defining Citizen Science: the purpose of public involvement. Citizen Science has got different purposes. By conducting citizen science projects, it is possible to enhance the scientific literacy of participants , to engage citizens in scientific processes and to create “a more informed citizenry about science and technology in citizen’s everyday life” (Levy & Germonprez, 2017, p.23).  Through citizen science one can gain knowledge about “human behaviour in new IS contexts” (Levy & Germonprez, 2017, p. 31). Citizen science projects can strengthen the understanding of the mechanisms of science (Nistor et al., 2019, p. 11).  In principal, the purpose can be seen as 

  1. Education and learning: people are involved to learn about science and scientific processes
  2. Awareness and understanding: people are involved to be aware about ongoing research projects. Here, the involvement focuses on communicating scientific findings. 
  3. Capacities: In many cases, people are involved to collect data for scientific projects similar to crowd-based approaches. By involving a broad range of people, research capacities and the amount of collected data are increased.

In our context, we focus on the educational view of CS as our main target group are teachers and students in high schools and the community around those. Eitzel et al (2017) also discuss the different roles of actors involved in CS. Bonney et al. (2009) suggest that there exist different levels of citizen science involvement. A citizen science project can be :

  • Contributory
    • “if a project is contributory, citizens primarily help collect and analyze samples or observations, which represents the way most citizens have contributed to citizen science projects.”(Levy & Germonprez, 2017, p. 26).
  • Collaborative
    • “If a project is collaborative, citizens help develop explanations, have a say in data collection methods, and analyze and interpret data.” (Levy & Germonprez, 2017, p. 26).
  • Co-created 

Depending on the stage, the citizen involvement differs. In our context, we focus on the collaboration of researchers, teachers, pupils and their communities (such as parents or quarters around the participating schools). 

Furthermore, there are different perspectives on Citizen Science. Levy & Germonprez (2017) discuss citizen science from three perspectives: sociological, natural science and policy perspective.

Generally, there are common phases / activities how to organize and run CS projects. Bonney et al. (2009, p.979) propose the following model and steps for developing a citizen science project:

  • Choose a scientific question
  • Form a scientist/educator/technologist/educator team
  • Develop, test and refine protocols, data forms and educational support materials
  • Recruit participants
  • Train participants
  • Accept, edit and display data
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Disseminate results
  • Measure outcomes

Obviously, there exist commonalities to the scientific research cycle (for example the scientific investigation life cycle of Kembara et al. (2020). On a closer look appear differences as for example in the steps “forming a s/e/t/s” team”, “developing […] educational support materials” and the “recruiting and training of participants”. 

Based on this short analysis, we understand Citizen Science as “collaborative research efforts between scientists, schools and communities to improve research competencies and capacities”.

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