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Citizen science, public policy

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Uploaded by RRI Tools on 25 July 2018

Citizen science, public policy. Christi J. Guerrini, Mary A. Majumder, Meaganne J. Lewellyn, Amy L. McGuire. Science  13 Jul 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 134-136. DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8379

Citizen science initiatives that support collaborations between researchers and the public are flourishing. As a result of this enhanced role of the public, citizen science demonstrates more diversity and flexibility than traditional science and can encompass efforts that have no institutional affiliation, are funded entirely by participants, or continuously or suddenly change their scientific aims. But these structural differences have regulatory implications that could undermine the integrity, safety, or participatory goals of particular citizen science projects.

Thus far, citizen science appears to be addressing regulatory gaps and mismatches through voluntary actions of thoughtful and well-intentioned practitioners. But as citizen science continues to surge in popularity and increasingly engage divergent interests, vulnerable populations, and sensitive data, it is important to consider the long-term effectiveness of these private actions and whether public policies should be adjusted to complement or improve on them. Here, we focus on three policy domains that are relevant to most citizen science projects:

  1. intellectual property 
  2. scientific integrity
  3. participant protections.

Although the definitional bounds of citizen science are debated, there is general consensus that citizen science encompasses scientific endeavors in which individuals without specific scientific training participate as volunteers in one or more activities relevant to the research process other than (or in addition to) allowing personal data or specimens to be collected from them. These activities might take place at any point during the research process and include participation in study design, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of results. They might even encompass the entirety of the research process where, as in coordinated self-experimentation, the role of professional scientists is minimal.

Recognizing the potential for citizen science to advance scientific knowledge and promote public support of scientific activities, professional associations have emerged in the United States, Europe, and Australia to support citizen science efforts, including consideration of policy interactions. Meanwhile, the U.S. government recently passed legislation that supports agency use of citizen science and crowdsourcing to conduct projects that advance their missions 

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