Library Element Report

Scaling up Citizen Science: What are the factors associated with increased reach and how to lever them to achieve impact

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 12 November 2020
Last modified on 12 November 2020

Maccani G., Goossensen M., Righi V., Creus J. and Balestrini M., Scaling up Citizen Science - What are the factors associated with increased reach and how to lever them to achieve impact, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2020, ISBN 978-92-76-25157-6, doi:10.2760/00926, JRC122219. 

The rapid pace of technology advancements, the open innovation paradigm, and the ubiquity of high-speed connectivity, greatly facilitate access to information to individuals, increasing their opportunities to achieve greater emancipation and empowerment. This provides new opportunities for widening participation in scientific research and policy, thus opening a myriad of avenues driving a paradigm shift across fields and disciplines, including the strengthening of Citizen Science.

Nowadays, the application of Citizen Science principles spans across several scientific disciplines, covering different geographical scales. While the interdisciplinary approach taken so far has shown significant results and findings, the current situation depicts a wide range of projects that are heavily context-dependent and where the learning outcomes of pilots are very much situated within the specific areas in which these projects are implemented. There is little evidence on how to foster the spread and scalability in Citizen Science. Furthermore, the Citizen Science community currently lacks a general agreement on what these terms mean, entail and how these can be approached.

To address these issues, we developed a theoretically grounded framework to unbundle the meaning of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. In this framework, we defined nine constructs that represent the enablers of these complex phenomena. We then validated, enriched, and instantiated this framework through four qualitative case studies of, diverse, successful examples of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. The framework and the rich experiences allow formulating four theoretically and empirically grounded scaling scenarios. We propose the framework and the in-depth case studies as the main contribution from this report. We hope to stimulate future research to further refine our understanding of the important, complex and multifaceted phenomena of scaling and spreading in Citizen Science. The framework also proposes a structured mindset for practitioners that either want to ideate and start a new Citizen Science intervention that is scalableby-design, or for those that are interested in assessing the scalability potential of an existing initiative


1. Introduction 

2. Approach and Methodology 

  • 2.1 Theoretical Development and Overall Reasoning 
  • 2.2 Multiple Case Study 
    • 2.2.1 Case Study Selection 
    • 2.2.2 Data Collection and Analysis
      • The Semi-Structured Interview Protocol
      • Data Analysis 

3. Building the Theoretical Lens

  • 3.1 Scaling and Spreading Phenomena 
  • 3.2 Theoretical Background: Adoption, Diffusion and Infrastructuring
    • 3.2.1 Diffusion of Innovations
    • 3.2.2 Adoption Theories: The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technologies (UTAUT)
    • 3.2.3 Infrastructuring Approaches in Participatory Design 
      • Matters of concern 
      • Community 
      • Openness
      • Orchestration
      • Narrative and Communication Outreach 

4. An Integrated Theoretical Framework for Unpacking Scaling in Citizen Science

  • 4.1 Elements intrinsic to the initial intervention to be scaled or spread 
    • 4.1.1 Proof of Value
    • 4.1.2 Ease of Use and Understand
    • 4.1.3 Openness 
      • Open Source Software 
      • Open Data 
  • 4.2 Elements supporting the scaling process 
    • 4.2.1 Development and Dissemination of Narratives and consistent Communication Material 
    • 4.2.2 Community and Champions 
    • 4.2.3 Knowledge Sharing and Transfer Resources 
  • 4.3 Elements of the Target Socio-Technical Context 
    • 4.3.1 Alignment of Matter of Concern
    • 4.3.2 Legal Alignment
    • 4.3.3 Alignment of Social Values 
  • 4.4 Reflecting on the Role of Technologies 
  • 4.5 Summary

II. Empirical Findings: Four Scaling Scenarios 

5. Making Sense Barcelona and the Smart Citizen Kit: Scaling Communities through Narratives..

  • 5.1 Scaling Communities through Narratives
  • 5.2 Narratives Triggering Communication and Dissemination 
  • 5.3 Local Impact as Proof of Value 
  • 5.4 Knowledge Sharing and Transfer Resources and Ease of Use: The Onboarding Kit and the Making Sense Toolkit 
  • 5.5 Openness in MS/SCK
  • 5.6 Target Context 
  • 5.7 Conclusions and Looking Forward 

6. FreshWaterWatch: Infrastructuring through the Train the Trainer Approach 

  • 6.1 Proof of Value: A Scientifically Robust Toolkit 
  • 6.2 Ease of Use and Understanding: The Train the Trainer Approach 
  • 6.3 Local Communities for Local Impact
  • 6.4 Communication and Dissemination Delegated Locally
  • 6.5 The Role of Openness in FWW
  • 6.6 Target context
  • 6.7 Conclusions and Looking Forward 

7. Luftdaten and Sensor.Community: Scaling through Platform-enabled virtuous cycles 

  • 7.1 Core Platform and Team 
  • 7.2 From Proof of Value to Virtuous Cycles 
  • 7.3 Little Centralised Communication 
  • 7.4 Local Contexts Fuelling Global Scaling
    • 7.4.1 Local Narrative 
    • 7.4.2 Citizens Communities 
    • 7.4.3 Community of Developers
  • 7.5 Openness
  • 7.6 Target Context 
  • 7.7 Conclusions and Looking Forward 

8. OpenStreetMap: Scaling through Platform-enabled Network Effects 

  • 8.1 Initial Proof of Value
  • 8.2 Platform-Based Governance Structure 
  • 8.3 Ease of Use and Knowledge Sharing and Transfer Resources in OSM
  • 8.4 Communication 
  • 8.5 The Multifaceted Community of OSM
    • 8.5.1 Individual contributors
    • 8.5.2 Local Chapters 
    • 8.5.3 Other Local Communities 
    • 8.5.4 Emergent Communities in response to Emergency Situations
  • 8.6 From Proof of Value to Network Effects 
  • 8.7 Openness in OSM
  • 8.8 Target Context 
  • 8.9 Conclusions and Looking Forward 

9. Reflections and Recommendations

  • 9.1 Reflecting on the Framework 
    • 9.1.1 Elements intrinsic to the initial project to be scaled or spread 
    • 9.1.2 Elements supporting the spreading and up-scaling processes 
    • 9.1.3 Elements of the Target Context 
    • 9.1.4 Citizen Science, Openness, and Scaling
  • 9.2 Looking Forward: IT trends 
    • 9.2.1 Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies 
    • 9.2.2 Artificial intelligence 

10. Conclusions, Limitations, and Future Avenues 


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