Developing citizen science policies in the European Research Area and worldwide

Decorative photo; People, England, MetsikGarden from Pixabay

The European Research Area (ERA) has been systematically supporting citizen science for many years. In November 2000, the European Commission adopted the document Science, Society and the Citizen in Europe , which addressed the relationship between science, technology and the wider community. In June 2001, the EU Ministers responsible for research adopted a special resolution on science and the community and the status of women in science. In response to this resolution, it was on the December 2001 published action plan Science and Society, which has fostered closer integration between the academic and wider communities in the European Union and which has become the basis for the sub-programme Structuring the ERA (under the 6th Framework Programme (FP6)). With an allocated budget of €88 million, this project marked the first of its kind in citizen science on a Europe-wide scale. Its primary goal was to enhance societal embrace and involvement in scientific endeavors.

Under the 7th Framework Programme (FP7), Science and Society has been transformed into the Science in Society (SiS), whose main objective was to promote public participation and ensure a sustained two-way dialogue between science and civil society. Its budget almost tripled to €280 million, funding 183 projects with an average EC contribution of €1.6 million. SiS has demonstrated the EC’s clear determination to address issues of importance to both academia and the wider community, such as ethical issues, public outreach and engagement with science, gender equality, the relationship between science and education, open access to research results, and so on.

SiS has spearheaded the formulation of a concept that aligns the hopes and goals of EU citizens with other stakeholders in the research and innovation sector. This concept has matured into what is known as the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) policy, officially established in November 2014 with  the rome resolution on RRI .

The assessment of the FP7’s impact revealed that subsequent Framework Programmes should deeply engage citizens and civil society organizations in European research initiatives. In these dialogues, citizens and civil society emerged as critical participants, focusing on the objectives and benefits of research. Additionally, the significance of tailored communication that caters to diverse groups and promotes connections among researchers, the public, and policymakers was acknowledged. Evaluation Citizen Science and Citizen Engagement: Achievements in Horizon 2020 and recommendations on the way forward    also recognised that key objectives of involving citizens in European research projects should include boosting trust, positive perceptions of science, improving the implementation of new knowledge and innovation, and fostering citizens’ creativity.

Building on all these experiences, the EC has established a sub-programme in Horizon 2020   Science with and for Society (SwafS), with the aim of ensuring effective collaboration between academia and the wider community or citizenry, and promoting scientific excellence in the context of wider social awareness and responsibility. SwafS was supported by an increased budget of €462 million and provided financial support to around 200 citizen science projects.

Among the results of the citizen science activities in Horizon 2020, there are a number of projects that will serve the future development of this concept. Project CIMULACT bringing together citizens and other interested stakeholders to co-create research agendas based on real and validated societal visions, needs and demands. SCALING ensures the transfer and implementation of citizen science knowledge and achievements in various other networks. EU-Citizen.Science builds a central platform for citizen science in Europe and shares useful resources on citizen science, including tools and guidelines, good practices and training modules. There are also other projects (SISCODE, RECIPIES, SPARKS, and others), that can serve as examples of good practice or as applied support for future citizen science projects.

Citizen science embodies the practice of open science and functions in alignment with its principles.

European Commission has in the year 2018 in the platform Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP) recognized citizen science as one of the eight pillars of open science.

Within the Horizon Europe programme, the European Commission endorses citizen science as a suggested approach for open science, emphasizing engagement with citizens, civil society, and end-users. Support for citizen science is provided through a dedicated platform

Also in 2018, the European Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) had in the document Open Science Roadmap issued recommendations for the implementation of citizen science activities and identified citizen science as one of the agents of the necessary cultural change in scientific research. It has also issued recommendations for the implementation of community science The League of European Research Universities

Science Europe has supported the ten principles for executing community science, as delineated by the working group European Citizen Science Association.

A study set to be released in 2021 provides a comprehensive overview of the current status of citizen science within the European Research Area, Exploring Citizen Science Strategies and Initiatives in Europe.

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