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MSc Citizen Science

The MSc in Citizen Science will enable a new generation of socially engaged scholars and practitioners to meet the needs of industry, government and public sectors which are seeing a rapid growth of the interest and participation of the general public in collecting and processing data to answer critical environmental questions. This new MSc, the first of its kind in the world, provides students with theoretical and practical experience in creating and managing citizen science projects across a range of disciplines from astronomy to zoology.
Programme Details 
Start DateSeptember, 2022
Awards AvailableMSc
Duration

1 year Full Time
2 years Part Time

LocationUCL East Campus

Participation of the general public in scientific projects has experienced rapid growth over the past decade, covering a huge range of disciplinary areas including astronomy, history, arts, cell biology, engineering, climate science, epidemiology, and public health (see https://www.zooniverse.org for a wide range of examples). For ecology in particular, citizen science is a long-established and vital tool for assessing the status of wildlife populations across the world, providing critical evidence for the health status of ecosystems (e.g. data from public-powered monitoring programmes made up the majority of the evidence for the UK’s State of Nature Report in 2019).

From policy makers and funders, to city councils and governments, interest and investment in citizen science projects are global. But how such projects are designed, implemented, and managed to be successful? What are the best methods to collect and evaluate the data? Which privacy and data sharing agreements need to be considered?

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The professionalisation of citizen science requires the development of expertise in designing, implementing, and managing citizen science projects and activities, illustrating the urgent need for an academic programme that offers the necessary support and training for emerging citizen science practitioners.

This new MSc programme is the first of its kind, and will meet the need for recognised skills development and support in this exciting area, providing students with unique skills in an area of ever-increasing demand that can be applied across a number of different industries.

Why Study this Programme at UCL? 
 

  • The MSc Citizen Science will be taught in UCL’s purpose-built People and Nature Lab at the new UCL East campus in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, opening for staff and students in 2022. 
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  • Our People & Nature Lab represents an exciting new cross-disciplinary research and teaching partnership to facilitate innovative approaches to tackle the challenges posed by biodiversity loss, global ecosystem degradation and climate change, to support a more sustainable relationship between people and nature.
     
  • UCL’s breadth of expertise across disciplines, the scale of the investment in the new campus combine to create a unique opportunity to take our understanding of the interdependencies of the modern world and its impact upon our environment to the next level.
     
  • UCL’s People and Nature Lab expands the work of the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) within the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment. Building on nearly two centuries of the study of the natural environment, CBER was established in 2013 as a world-leading centre of excellence for the study of the impact of rapid environmental change on biodiversity, how species are adapting to anthropogenic change, and how the degradation of nature impacts people and society.
     
  • The MSc Citizen Science is directed by Professor Muki Haklay who is co-director of the Extreme Citizen Science group (ExCiteS), and co-founder of the social enterprise Mapping for Change. Prof Haklay’s work focuses on understanding how communities, regardless of their scientific literacy, use methods and tools to collect, analyse, interpret and use information about their area and activities. He currently coordinates the promotion of citizen science projects across Europe, and directs several research projects developing geospatial technologies for different communities.
     
  • The MSc will realise the vision of a new type of programme which addresses the urgent need to produce professionals with expertise in both ecology and data science, and will be taught by a cross-disciplinary team of scientists, including from UCL’s departments of GEE, Computer Science; Geography; Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering; and The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and industry partners from the Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum.

Career Opportunities 

Citizen science is undergoing a rapid professionalisation. Since 2012 major associations of citizen science practitioners have emerged in the USA and Europe, and were followed by organisations in Australia, Asia, South America and now Africa, while networks have developed and established in numerous countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy, and Austria.

There is ongoing growth in the number of scientific publications that are using the terms ‘citizen science’ and/or ‘crowdsourcing’, and there is now a dedicated scientific journal for the field—Citizen Science: Theory and Practice—as well as a growing array of books dedicated to the topic. Offices for citizen science are appearing in academic institutions, tasked with providing support for researchers running citizen science projects, and the interest in professional development and networking continues to grow.

This programme was developed through wide consultation with industry partners who strongly supported the need for high-quality vocation training in the area of Citizen Science and can see employment opportunities for graduates in their organisations. Additionally, major organisations across the world including NASA, Coca-Cola and Unilever are adopting the citizen science approach, creating job opportunities in this area. 

As this is a new programme we are not able to share the outcomes of previous graduates. However, upon completion of the MSc Citizen Science, students will have the project management skills, and theoretical and practical experience needed to design and manage Citizen Science projects. This will provide them with a unique point of difference that meets a fast growing need across all many industries. 

Course Content 


The MSc programme consists of 3 compulsory modules, 1 optional module, a hands-on experiential learning within an active citizen science project and a research project.

Compulsory Modules

Foundations of Citizen Science

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Foundation knowledge on citizen science and crowdsourcing, covering the theoretical roots of citizen science to its modern application across society and scientific fields

Computational Methods in Biodiversity Research

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Develop the fundamental skills you will need to collect, manipulate, visualise and analyse environmental, biodiversity, and citizen science data, using open-source analytical and computational tools.

Designing and Managing Citizen Science

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Develop familiarity with the organisational, political and ethical considerations of citizen science projects. Issues of policy, power, diversity, equity, risk, and failure will also be explored


The Practice of Citizen Science (working in an active citizen science project)

Working directly with a Citizen Science programme partner, students will gain first-hand experience in the day-to-day operation and management of an active citizen science project. Through this unprecedented access they will experience the practical challenges of delivering citizen science projects, and through their work, evaluate and provide feedback that can influence future adaptation and project design. It may be possible to further develop this internship/secondment activities with programme partners into student’s final research project


MSc Citizen Science Research Project

A range of research projects will be available working with UCL academics and across our industry partners., including the Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum London. Students will carry out an original piece of research using citizen science methodologies developed with the student’s expert supervisory team. The student will produce a dissertation detailing and critically analysing their work, and will be expected to prepare an oral presentation delivered to an invited audience.


Optional Modules

AI for the Environment
 

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Develop advanced analytical skills need to infer and model environmental and biodiversity data, using machine learning and other approaches

Technology for Nature
 

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Explore the use, design, deployment and practicalities of different sensor systems for observing and monitoring wildlife populations.

Species Conservation and Biodiversity

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This module uses a combination of techniques to address key questions including: What is biodiversity? How much of the planet’s biodiversity remains undiscovered? What are the main tools (e.g. computer models, monitoring techniques) used to study conservation issues? 

Plant Evolution and Ecology

butterfly on plant

This module will demonstrate how key hypotheses in genome organisation, adaptive radiation, the evolution of reproductive strategies, and cooperation and conflict can be tested using plants.

Facilities & Fieldwork

  • Students on the MSc programmes will be taught in the new facilities in the People and Nature Lab at the UCL East campus. 

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  • These facilities include cutting-edge laboratories and workshops, and the ‘Living-Laboratory’ of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) designed to be home to both people and nature. Networks of sensors in the QEOP collect environmental and biodiversity data and students would have the chance to build and deploy new sensors and analyse the existing data streams. 

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Partners

As well as researchers across UCL departments, students on this programme have the opportunity to work on a research project with academics at The Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum.

People and Nature Lab's First Project

bat device enclosure

Whilst the new UCL East campus was being built the People and Nature Lab worked with colleagues at Intel to develop the world’s first automated smart detectors for monitoring bats through their echolocation calls. Our ‘Echo Boxes’ continuously record and identify bat calls using machine learning across the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park sending the results back in real time to understand the health of the environment.

Find out more about the Project

Research Labs at UCL in Relevant Fields

Students on this programme may have the opportunity to work with one or more of UCL's world leading research laboratories through the programme or as part of their research project. These are some of the UCL labs across faculties that are relevant to the content taught within this programme.

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Extreme Citizen Science

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Co-Production Collective

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UCL Office for Open Science and Scholarship

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CBER Labs