10 principles of citizen science

Decorative photo; ECSA logo, Berlin, Museum fur Naturkunde from ECSA

In 2015, the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) adopted the 10 Principles of Citizen Science. This set of principles was subsequently endorsed by Science Europe, thereby reinforcing the credibility of these guidelines and affirming citizen science as a legitimate method of scientific research. This endorsement represents a significant acknowledgment of the value and validity of citizen science within the broader scientific community.

Citizen science is a versatile approach to scientific research, adaptable across various scientific disciplines and contexts. The European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) formulated its principles through the efforts of the “Sharing Best Practice and Building Capacity” working group. This specialized group, spearheaded by the Natural History Museum in London and aided by ECSA members, crafted essential principles that lay the foundation for high-quality practices in citizen science. These principles have been documented to guide and standardize the practice of citizen science. They have been written down in a document Ten Principles of Citizen Science. 

Summary of principles

1. Citizen science projects engage community members actively in scientific endeavors, generating new knowledge. Participants can assume various roles, which should be clearly defined and transparent.

2. Citizen science projects yield tangible scientific outcomes.

3. Both professional scientists and other participants in citizen science projects derive benefits, which can range from scientific publications, knowledge exchange, personal fulfillment, societal advantages, to the influence and satisfaction of seeing research outcomes shape solutions in local, national, or international contexts.

4. Participants in citizen science projects can contribute to different stages of the scientific process, including research design, development of scientific methods, data generation, and the publication and dissemination of results.

5. All participants are kept informed about the progress of the research, including phases they may not be directly involved in, like the impact of the research on social development or the implementation of findings in various contexts.

6. Citizen science is as valid as any traditional research method, but it has its own limitations and biases that must be acknowledged and addressed. Unlike conventional research models, citizen science promotes community involvement and the democratization of science.

7. Citizen science adheres to open science principles. Data and metadata from projects are made publicly available, and results are published in open access formats, subject to standard exceptions for sharing research findings.

8. All participants should receive acknowledgment in the research outputs of citizen science projects.

9. Evaluation of citizen science programs should consider research results, data quality, participant experiences, and broader social or political impacts.

10. Leaders of citizen science projects must consider legal and ethical aspects, including copyright, intellectual property, data sharing agreements, confidentiality, citation, and environmental impacts in their research activities.

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