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Citizen Science and Sustainability Transitions

Journal article
Authors Katrin Vohland
Henry Sauermann
Vyron Antoniou
Balint Balazs
Claudia Göbel
Kostas Karatzas
Peter Mooney
Josep Perelló
Marisa Ponti
Roeland Samson
Silvia Winter
Published in Research Policy
Volume 49
Issue 5
ISSN 0048-7333
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords Citizen Science, Crowd Science, Co-Design, Sustainability Transitions, Science and Innovation Studies, Science Education
Subject categories Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


Citizen Science (CS) projects involve members of the general public as active participants in research. Different proponents of this approach – including professional scientists, civil society groups, as well as policy makers – hope that it can increase scientific knowledge production but also bridge the gap between science and the broader society. In this paper, we discuss how both aspects can allow Citizen Science to have even more fundamental impacts by supporting sustainability transitions in areas such as renewable energy, public health, or environmental conservation. We first highlight three pathways through which such impacts can occur: (1) Problem identification and agenda setting; (2) Resource mobilization; and (3) Facilitating socio-technical co-evolution. To realize this potential, however, CS needs to address challenges that emerge especially in the context of sustainability transitions: Increasing the diversity, level, and intensity of participation; addressing the social as well as technical nature of sustainability problems; and reducing tensions between CS and the traditional institution of academic science. Grounded in a review of academic literature and policy reports as well as a broad range of case examples, this article contributes to scholarship on science, innovation, and sustainability transitions. We also offer insights for actors involved in initiating or institutionalizing Citizen Science efforts, including project organizers, funding agencies, and policy makers.

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