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How Does Policy Conceptualise Citizen Science? A Qualitative Content Analysis of International Policy Documents

Hecker, S; Wicke, N; Haklay, M; Bonn, A; (2019) How Does Policy Conceptualise Citizen Science? A Qualitative Content Analysis of International Policy Documents. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice , 4 (1) , Article 32. 10.5334/cstp.230. Green open access

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Abstract

Policy and science show great interest in citizen science as a means to public participation in research. To recognize how citizen science is perceived to foster joint working at the science-society-policy interface, a mutual understanding of the term “citizen science” is required. Here, we assess the conceptualisation and strategic use of the term “citizen science” in policy through a qualitative content analysis of 43 international policy documents edited by governments and authorities. Our results show that most documents embrace the diversity of the research approach and emphasize the many benefits that citizen science may provide for science, society, and policy. These include boosting spatio-temporal data collection through volunteers, tapping into distributed knowledge domains, increasing public interest and engagement in research, and enhancing societal relevance of the respective research. In addition, policy documents attribute educational benefits to citizen science by fostering scientific literacy, individual learning, and skill development, as well as by facilitating environmental stewardship. Through active participation, enhanced ownership of research results may improve policy decision-making processes and possibly democratise research as well as public policy processes, although the latter is mentioned only in a few European Union (EU) documents. Challenges of citizen science mentioned in the analysed policy documents relate mainly to data quality and management, to organisational and governance issues, and to difficulties of the uptake of citizen science results into actual policy implementation due to a lack of citizen science alignment with current policy structures and agendas. Interestingly, documents largely fail to address the benefits and challenges of citizen science as a tool for policy development, i.e., citizen science is mainly perceived as only a science tool. Overall, policy documents seem to be influenced strongly by the citizen science discourse in the science sector, which indicates a joint advocacy for citizen science.

Type: Article
Title: How Does Policy Conceptualise Citizen Science? A Qualitative Content Analysis of International Policy Documents
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.5334/cstp.230
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.230
Language: English
Additional information: © 2019 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: conceptualisation of citizen science, international policy, qualitative content analysis
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10088732
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