UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


How does citizen science change us and how can it change society?

16 October 2024, 10:00 am–5:00 pm

CS workshop

What does it mean to ‘become’ and to ‘be’ a citizen scientist? What motivates people to begin and sustain an engagement with citizen science? If you've been involved in citizen science, submit your workshop proposal and contribute to creating an open-access book about the impacts of your work.

Event Information

Open to

Invitation Only




UCL Citizen Science Academy


UCL East Marshgate
7 Sidings Street
E20 2AE

This workshop will explore how citizen science changes people and how it can change society. We will investigate this question from different perspectives including those of citizen scientists, the communities in which they work, and the academics, policymakers and practitioners who collaborate with them.  Our interest is in how being a citizen scientist and working with citizen scientists changes how we think and act, and what potential these individual changes hold for wider organisational and societal change. 

The purpose of the workshop is to develop thinking and contributions for an open-access book about the impacts of citizen science. Workshop contributors will be invited to develop their submissions for inclusion in the edited collection of essays, subject to publisher and peer review. 

Citizen science involves the public in scientific research and knowledge production.  Definitions vary, but broadly speaking citizen science aims to expand the reach and scope of scientific research through large-scale data collection and the inclusion of diverse forms of knowledge, to increase public understanding of, and engagement with, science and contribute new evidence to policymaking. Citizen science encompasses a diverse array of concerns and disciplines – from biodiversity monitoring and astronomy to medicine and social science – spanning multiple research methods and ways of working between citizens, communities, scientists, and policymakers. However, as a field of research practice that is constantly evolving, questions about how to conceptualise and measure the impact of citizen science are still being debated and there are no commonly established impact indicators for evaluating citizen science. Debates about impact revolve around benefits and risks in four keys areas:  

  • Scientific gains - e.g. contributions to knowledge and innovations in open science (Hecker et al., 2018); is citizen science ‘good’ science? (Davis et al., 2023) 

  • Policy gains - e.g. utility and relevance of citizen science to decision-making (Lepenies and Zakari, 2021; Owen and Parker, 2018) 

  • Participant gains - e.g. acquisition of research skills (Masters et al., 2016; Philips et al., 2014) enhancing scientific literacy and science capital (Edwards et al., 2018)  

  • Community gains – e.g. outcomes of citizen science for local communities, such as creating interventions that provide services (Mintchev et al., 2024) 

To date, less attention has been paid to understanding impact through a relational lens, specifically how experiences of ‘becoming’, ‘being’ and ‘encountering’ citizen scientists can lead to changes in individual thought and practice that can translate to wider community, organisational, and societal changes. This workshop is motivated by our own experiences of observing and experiencing significant individual, organisational, scientific, and policy impacts from long-term collaborations with citizen scientists and policymakers.  Our goal is to explore how participation in (or exposure to) citizen science changes the thinking and behaviour of citizen scientists themselves and the people they collaborate with during the research process, which can include some or all of the following: scientists, academics, neighbours, members of the public, policymakers, research funders, industry professionals, voluntary sector practitioners, politicians and journalists.   

Drawing on individual stories and project case studies, we invite contributors to reflect on the question “How does citizen science change us and how can it change society?”  These are some of the questions we are interested in exploring: 

  • What does it mean to ‘become’ and to ‘be’ a citizen scientist? 

  • What motivates people to begin and sustain an engagement with citizen science – as a citizen scientist, academic researcher, policymaker, or other stakeholder? 

  • What are the personal impacts – social, emotional, professional – of becoming and/or working with citizen scientists? 

  • What personal and professional trajectories result from being involved in citizen science? 

  • What are the unintended consequences of being a citizen scientist? 

  • How does an ‘encounter’ with citizen science change the way policymakers think and act? 

  • How do we conceptualize and theorize these impacts for organisational practice and policymaking?   

  • And what are the implications for decision-making and the potentials for wider transformations in knowledge generated to inform policy and social action? 

  • What are the key ethical, practical, and data quality risks and dilemmas that citizen science projects face (e.g. exploitation, tokenism, managing conflicts within diverse teams, quality of training) 

Workshop convenors 

Dr Saffron Woodcraft,  Executive Lead, Prosperity Co-Lab UK (PROCOL UK), Principal Research Fellow and Director of Social Policy
Joseph Cook, UCL Citizen Science Academy Lead
Dr Nikolay Mintchev, Principal Research Fellow and Executive Lead, Prosperity Co-Lab for Lebanon (PROCOL Lebanon)  
Mayssa Jallad, Researcher and Citizen Science Coordinator, PROCOL Lebanon
Twinkle Jay, Citizen Scientist 

How to make a submission 

If you'd like to contribute to this workshop, please email a 250-word abstract or outline of your workshop submission to citizenscienceacademy@ucl.ac.uk by 10 AM on 9 September 2024.  

Selected submissions will be invited to give a a 15-minute presentation at the workshop on 16 October 2024.  We encourage presentations in a range of formats e.g. papers, slides, photo essays.  The workshop will be in-person at UCL East in London.  

Who can apply 

We are keen to encourage a diversity of perspectives and contributions to the workshop and subsequent publication. We are actively seeking submissions from citizen scientists, researchers, policymakers, funders, community-based organisations, and others working in and outside academia, who have been involved in citizen science projects in the UK and internationally.  We would like to support submissions from individuals and disciplines that are under-represented in literature about the impacts of citizen science, including projects originating in the social sciences and humanities, and projects led by researchers from the Global South. 

References cited 

Davis, Lloyd S., Lei Zhu, and Wiebke Finkler. 2023. "Citizen Science: Is It Good Science?" Sustainability 15, no. 5: 4577. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15054577 

Richard Edwards, Kirn Sarah, Hillman Thomas, Kloetzer Laure, Mathieson Katherine, McDonnell Diarmuid, Phillips Tina.  2018. Learning and developing science capital through citizen science. In: Hecker, S., Haklay, M., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J. & Bonn, A. 2018. Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London. https://doi.org/10.14324 /111.9781787352339 

Hecker, S., Muki Haklay, Anne Bowser, Zen Makuch, Johannes Vogel and Aletta Bonn (eds). 2018.  Citizen Science - Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press: London. 

Lepenies, Robert, and Ibrahim Sidi Zakari. "Citizen science for transformative air quality policy in Germany and Niger." Sustainability 13, no. 7 (2021): 3973. 

Masters, Karen, Eun Young Oh, Joe Cox, Brooke Simmons, Chris Lintott, Gary Graham, Anita Greenhill and Kate Holmes.  (2016). Science learning via participation in online citizen science. Journal of Science Communication 15(03). 

Mintchev, N., Daher, M., Jallad, M., Zaher, R., Pietrostefani, E., Ghamrawi, G., Al Harrache, A., Majed, A., & Moore, H. L. (2024). Citizen Social Science for Improved Quality of Life: Research, Interventions, Evaluations. International Review of Qualitative Research, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/19408447241256052 

Owen, R.P.; Parker, A.J.; (2018) Citizen science in environmental protection agencies. In: Hecker, S. and Haklay, M. and Bowser, A. and Makuch, Z. and Vogel, J. and Bonn, A., (eds.) Citizen Science - Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. (pp. 284-300). UCL Press: London. 

Phillips, Tina, Norman Porticella, Mark Constas, Rick Bonney.  (2018) A Framework for Articulating and Measuring Individual Learning Outcomes from Participation in Citizen Science. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice.  Vol 3, Issue 2. 

Vohland, Katrin., Anne Land-Zandstra, Luigi Ceccaroni, Rob Lemmens, Josep Perelló, Marisa Ponti, Roeland Samson, and Katherin Wagenknecht.  (2021). The Science of Citizen Science Evolves.  In The Science of Citizen Science.  Springer.