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Defining Citizen Science

The definition of Citizen Science at UCL is dynamic and inclusive of all disciplines and contexts.


There are variations of the exact definition of citizen science, with different disciplines and organisations having their own interpretations of what citizen science encompasses.

UCL is committed to supporting a broad approach to citizen science, recognising that there are different applications and functions of citizen science in research, whether they are community-driven research projects or global investigations.

Broadly defined, citizen science is research undertaken by members of the public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of academic and research institutions or similar. Citizen science is a very diverse practice, encompassing various forms, depths and aims of collaboration between academic and community researchers and a broad range of disciplines.

At its most inclusive and most innovative, citizen science involves ordinary people as partners in the entire research process, including determining research themes, questions, methodologies and means of disseminating results. The involvement of people in participatory research can range from short-term data collection to intensive involvement in the research process, from technical contribution to genuine research, and from open collaboration to co-creation of knowledge. 

[As cited in the chapter What Is Citizen Science? The Challenges of Definition, Haklay, M.., Dörler, D., Heigl, F., Manzoni, M., Hecker, S., Vohland, K. (2021). In: , et al. The Science of Citizen Science, 2021].

Citizen science is a rapidly growing area of research and practice, with evolving standards on which different stakeholders are developing methodologies, theories, and techniques. ECSA’s Characteristics of Citizen Science build on (and refer to) the ECSA 10 Principles of Citizen Science as a summary of best practice – and projects are expected to engage meaningfully with them. [Adapted from “ECSA's Characteristics of Citizen Science”]

Diversity of activities and practices

The image below shows the diversity of activities and the range of practices included under the umbrella of citizen science, and it is possible to understand citizen science by considering the characteristics of these activities and practices.  

Although colleagues from the many teams across UCL’s faculties and departments are successfully executing projects and undertaking diverse activities every day, the word cloud demonstrates that whatever these projects or activities are called, we are all working together under the same mission to strengthen UCL activities in this area. By bringing everyone together under the same umbrella, we can create stronger connections with each other, improve how we work together and consider more collaborative solutions. 

Citizen Science Word Cloud