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G7 Statement: Citizen science in the Internet era (2019)

G7-Stellungnahme 2019

(2019, 6 pages)

Citizen science is by definition carried out by citizens who are not “scientific professionals”. It is changing rapidly, as a result of the democratization of knowledge, new and faster communication technologies and increased open access to information. A first - and major- component of citizen science is the 21st century version of the long established “Community-Based Participatory Research”. CBPR is usually performed by people with little formal scientific training participating in research projects coordinated by trained experts. It now takes the form of many projects across the world involving millions of people and billions of data items collected.

A second emerging component involves individuals having a solid scientific background, but working outside the walls of the usual professional research systems. They do science in public or private virtual communities or in private settings. This category of citizen science is referred to, here, as “Beyond The Walls Research” (BTWR). In the present Internet era, the potential value of these approaches to research is high: CBPR may contribute to improving public understanding of science and the scientific method, and can thus play a role in democratizing knowledge and learning. BTWR offers an opportunity to advance knowledge and innovation in ways that were previously inaccessible to the academic, government or industrial organizations of research, and constitutes an opportunity – widely used by industry - to discover talented individuals outside the standard research system.

Alongside these potential benefits come risks, especially around the evaluation of results stemming from CBPR and BTWR. These results are often disseminated through diverse channels outside the traditional peer-review system. There are also risks that ethical guidelines and safety regulations that apply to research carried out in the standard professional framework are not followed by those engaged in this new citizen science and, therefore, there is a need for anticipation and control. Finally, the development of citizen science requires an increased effort in the scientific training of the citizen at all ages, starting at school, and the integration of perspectives in the arts and humanities, law, education, social sciences and ethics as well as natural sciences and engineering.

The detailed recommendations are at the end of the statement.

  • Rethink scientific education to equip students to undertake citizen science or professional research later on.
  • Take action to avoid or mitigate ethical lapses and security risks of citizen science.
  • Promote the co-development of citizen science and laboratory-based research.
  • Enable citizen scientists to adopt existing culture of reporting and assessing scientific contributions.
  • Create specific funding programs for citizen science.
  • Promote information systems to document themes and results of citizen science.


Dr. Ruth Narmann

Head of International Relations Department

Phone 030 - 241 8987 - 473
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 838
E-Mail ruth.narmann (at)leopoldina.org