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“Citizen science is personal. Participation is contingent on the citizens’ connection to a topic or to interpersonal relationships meaningful to them, says Prof. Damon Hall. “But from the peer-reviewed literature, scientists appear to have an acquisitive data-centered relationship with citizens. This has spurred ethical and pragmatic criticisms of extractive relationships with citizen scientists.”

In a March 2024 article published in BioScience, Hall and colleagues suggest practical steps to shift citizen-science research from extractive to relational, reorienting the research process and providing reciprocal benefits to researchers and citizen scientists. These steps include: identifying citizen scientists’ motivations for participating; identifying citizen scientists’ priorities for the research outputs; engaging and respecting citizen scientists’ expertise and local knowledge; and iteratively incorporating citizen scientists’ insights into the project.

“We agree,” says Prof. Hall, “with those heralding citizen science as on the frontline for addressing inequalities provided projects are designed to meet participants’ needs and community aspirations while respecting local knowledge. Making science more responsive to the interests of society creates a more socially robust and meaningful science, worthy of participation, public funding, and continued public support.”

Read the full BioScience article

Read a citizen science Q&A with Damon Hall