What is it?

Page Last modified 09 Jul 2013
The concept of citizen science is interpreted and applied differently depending on people, organizations, authorities, and countries. Here we use the following definition: ’Organized research in which members of the public—who may or may not be trained in science - gather or analyse data’ (Bonney & Dickinson, 2012)

This definition of citizen science emphasizes the voluntary and participatory aspect of citizen science and states that specific scientific training for the tasks may be lacking. Thus, the experience and knowledge of people participating in citizen science monitoring activities may range from those who have expert knowledge in a particular field and may have an extensive scientific education and training, to those who have no formal scientific training. The common denominator of citizen science is that the participation is on a voluntary basis.

Citizen science monitoring is used in a variety of ways and for different purposes. Here the focus is on the use of observations made by citizens in biodiversity monitoring programmes in Europe that cover a broad range of information on species, habitats and ecosystems.

A focus on citizen science monitoring for biodiversity is very timely for several reasons. Firstly, the acceleration of threats to biodiversity makes it critical to detect biodiversity trends quickly, which will require large volumes of data. Secondly, the advancement in technologies (e.g. recent and widespread proliferation of smart phone use by the general public) provides a huge potential for crowd-sourcing, i.e. the collection of data by a high number of volunteers.


  • Bonney, R. and Dickinson, J.L., 2012, ‘Overview of Citizen Science’, in: Dickinson, J.L. and Bonney, R. (eds.), Citizen science, public participation in environmental research, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.


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