Social Context of Citizen Science Projects

Social Context of Citizen Science Projects

Patricia Tiago (Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes & Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0962-2.ch008


This chapter provides a brief history of citizen science in our societies, identifies the main stakeholders involved in projects of this topic, and analyzes the main points to take into consideration, from a social perspective, when designing a citizen-science project: communicating; recruiting and motivating participants; fostering innovation, interdisciplinarity and group dynamics; promoting cultural changes, healthy habits, inclusion, awareness and education; and guiding policy goals and decisions. Different governance structures, and a coexistence of different approaches, are analyzed together with how they suit different communities and scientific studies.
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The History Of Citizen Science In Our Societies

For centuries, scientific research was conducted by amateurs (people that were not paid to do science) (Vetter, 2011). Professionalization of science, in the late 19th century, drew those amateurs away from the scientific world and created a big gap between “real scientists” (people that are paid to do science) and citizens interested in those subjects (Vetter, 2011).

John Ray, Alfred Russell Wallace, Gregor Mendel are prime examples of amateurs who produced incredible scientific advances. John Ray published important works on botany, zoology, and natural theology and his classification of plants in Historia Plantarum, was an important step towards modern taxonomy (Raven, 1942). Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist. His best known work was on the theory of evolution through natural selection and his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin's writings in 1858 (Raby, 2001). Gregor Mendel was a friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the modern science of genetics. His pea plant experiments established many of the rules of heredity, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance (Weiling, 1991). These individuals were largely pursuing research because of an innate interest in particular topics or questions (Vetter, 2011) and were recognized experts in their field, conducting research indistinguishable from today’s professional scientists.

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