Making citizen science count: Best practices and challenges of citizen science projects on plastics in aquatic environments
There is considerable scientific and societal concern about plastic pollution, which has resulted in citizen science projects to study the scale of the issue. Citizen science is a cost-effective way to gather data over a large geographical range while simultaneously raising public awareness on the problem. Because the experiences of researchers involved in these projects are not yet adequately covered, this paper presents the findings from ten semi-structured qualitative interviews with researchers leading a citizen science project on micro- or macroplastics. Our results show it is important to specify the goal(s) of the project and that expertise on communication and data science is needed. Furthermore, simple protocols, quality control, and engagement with volunteers and the public are key elements for successful projects. From these results, a framework with recommendations was drafted, which can be used by anyone who wants to develop or improve citizen science projects.