Advancing Citizen Science for Coastal and Ocean Research
Citizen Science is an approach which involves members of the public in gathering scienti c data and, in more advanced cases, also involves them in the analysis of such data and in the design of scienti c research. Bene ts of this approach include enhancing monitoring capabilities, empowering citizens and increasing Ocean Literacy, which can itself lead to the development of environmentally-friendly behaviours. There is a long history of citizen participation in science as a general concept. However, the process of studying and understanding the best ways to develop, implement, and evaluate Citizen Science is just beginning and it has recently been proposed that the study of the process and outcomes of Citizen Science merits acknowledgement as a distinct discipline in its own right.
Considering the vastness of the ocean, the extensiveness of the world’s coastlines, and the diversity of habitats, communities and species, a full scienti c exploration and understanding of this realm requires intensive research and observation activities over time and space. Citizen Science is a potentially powerful tool for the generation of scienti c knowledge to a level that would not be possible for the scienti c community alone. Additionally, Citizen Science initiatives should be promoted because of their bene ts in creating awareness of the challenges facing the world’s ocean and increasing Ocean Literacy.
Responding to this, the European Marine Board convened a Working Group on Citizen Science, whose main aim was to provide new ideas and directions to further the development of Marine Citizen Science, with particular consideration for the European context.
This position paper introduces the concept and rationale of Citizen Science, in particular regarding its relationship to marine research. The paper then explores European experiences of Marine Citizen Science, presenting common factors of success for European initiatives as examples of good practice. The types of data amenable to Citizen Science are outlined, along with concerns and measures relating to ensuring the scienti c quality of those data. The paper further explores the social aspects of participation in Marine Citizen Science, outlining the societal bene ts in terms of impact and education. The current and potential future role of technology in Marine Citizen Science projects is also addressed including, the relationship between citizens and earth observations, and the relevance of progress in the area of unmanned observing systems. The paper nally presents proposals for the improved integration and management of Marine Citizen Science on a European scale. This leads to a detailed discussion on Marine Citizen Science informing Marine Policy, taking into account the requirements of the Aarhus Convention as well as the myriad of EU marine and environmental policies.
The paper concludes with the presentation of eight Strategic Action Areas for Marine Citizen Science in Europe (see summary below with details in Chapter 4). These action areas, which are aimed not only at the marine research community, but also at scientists from multiple disciplines (including non-marine), higher education institutions, funding bodies and policy makers, should together enable coherent future Europe-wide application of Marine Citizen Science for the bene t of all.