Learning and the transformative potential of citizen science

Györgyi Bela, Taru Peltola, Juliette C. Young, Bálint Balázs, Isabelle Arpin, György Pataki, Jennifer Hauck, Eszter Kelemen, Leena Kopperoinen, Ann Van Herzele, Hans Keune, Susanne Hecker, Monika Suškevičs, Helen E. Roy, Pekka Itkonen, Mart Külvik, Miklós László, Corina Basnou, Joan Pino, Aletta Bonn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology. The number of collaborative initiatives between scientists and volunteers (i.e., citizen science) is increasing across many research fields. The promise of societal transformation together with scientific breakthroughs contributes to the current popularity of citizen science (CS) in the policy domain. We examined the transformative capacity of citizen science in particular learning through environmental CS as conservation tool. We reviewed the CS and social-learning literature and examined 14 conservation projects across Europe that involved collaborative CS. We also developed a template that can be used to explore learning arrangements (i.e., learning events and materials) in CS projects and to explain how the desired outcomes can be achieved through CS learning. We found that recent studies aiming to define CS for analytical purposes often fail to improve the conceptual clarity of CS; CS programs may have transformative potential, especially for the development of individual skills, but such transformation is not necessarily occurring at the organizational and institutional levels; empirical evidence on simple learning outcomes, but the assertion of transformative effects of CS learning is often based on assumptions rather than empirical observation; and it is unanimous that learning in CS is considered important, but in practice it often goes unreported or unevaluated. In conclusion, we point to the need for reliable and transparent measurement of transformative effects for democratization of knowledge production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-999
JournalConservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • aprendizaje transformador
  • biodiversidad
  • biodiversity
  • collaborative assessment
  • interacciones
  • participación
  • participation
  • política ciencia-sociedad
  • science-society-policy interactions
  • transformative learning
  • valoración colaborativa


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