Exploring and supporting citizen science

Citizen science is blooming across all scientific disciplines and the humanities. It can potentially bring a wide variety of benefits to researchers, citizens, policy makers and society across the research and innovation cycle, e.g; it can accelerate and sometimes even make possible the production of new scientific knowledge; it can help policy makers monitor implementation and compliance with regulations; it can increase public awareness about science and feeling of ownership of policies; and it can enable faster and evidence-informed reactions to events and better territorial coverage.

At the same time there are difficulties setting up citizen science initiatives – in terms of choosing the optimum methodologies; in terms of quality assurance and validation of the outcomes; in terms of linking the various governance levels, from local to global; in terms of ensuring balanced participation of citizens (e.g. regardless of background, gender and age); in terms of integrity of methods and data; in terms of recognising the work of citizens participating in citizen science initiatives; in terms of managing large numbers of volunteers for many months or even years (and keeping them motivated and responding to their questions).

Furthermore, questions remain unanswered about the potentials of citizen science for society e.g: what is the potential number of citizen scientists and who are they? What are the costs and benefits of citizen science (e.g. in terms of scientific excellence and the economy)? What relationship can and does citizen science have to informal and formal science education? Are there limits to citizen science, and if so what are they?

For the present topic citizen science should be understood broadly, covering a range of different levels of participation, from raising public knowledge of science, encouraging citizens to participate in the scientific process by observing, gathering and processing data, right up to setting scientific agenda and co-designing and implementing science-related policies. It could also involve publication of results and teaching science.


There are the two sub-topics:

  • A. Coordination and Support Action - CSA (1 project in 2018): This will provide support to citizen science at the European level. It will also create a mutual learning space where citizen science projects/participants can exchange experiences and successful strategies. It will raise awareness of citizen science among the general public, provide co-ordination support between citizen science initiatives (in particular those funded by SwafS but also working in a spirit of co-operation with established networks of citizen scientists), identify training needs with a view to developing and implementing training to help citizen scientists, and support communication between citizen science and science journalists/science media. It will also identify good practices that incentivise career scientists to engage with citizen science activities.
  • B. Research and Innovation Actions - RIA (multiple projects in 2018-2019): This will support hands-on citizen science activities. Proposals may focus on one particular area of scientific enquiry or tackle several, though transdisciplinary approaches should be favoured. The intended activities should be clearly defined and result in the development of new knowledge, new technologies, or new means of using existing technological or social innovations better. Activities can explore how citizen science develops scientific skills and competences, act as a tool for informal and formal science education of young people and adults, counter perceived anti-intellectual attitudes in society, raise the scientific literacy of European citizens, and promote social inclusion and employability. Gender, geographical and socio-economic factors should be taken into account so as to ensure activities are open to people from all backgrounds. Effort should be made to evaluate the impacts on society, democracy, the economy, science itself, and the individual citizen scientists involved in the activities. Lines of communication should be established with other relevant SwafS projects in order to share evaluation data and data arising from the citizen science in the spirit of open science.

In line with the strategy for EU international cooperation in research and innovation (COM(2012)497), international cooperation is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of € 2.00 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

  • A. Coordination and Support Action: Strengthened networks, co-ordination and communication among citizen science projects (particularly, but not limited, to those funded by SwafS). Availability of tools, guidelines, or other materials useful to actors inexperienced in organising and supporting citizen science initiatives. Increased awareness amongst the general public of citizen science. Delivery of training to citizen scientists (or potential science practitioners) and resultant increased skills, competences, and scientific excellence. Consortia should choose a basket of indicators to measure the impact of their work against. In particular, consortia are expected to contribute to one or more of the MoRRI indicators (for instance PE1 to PE10) and to the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • B. Research and Innovation Actions: Development of new knowledge and innovations by citizen scientists. Availability of evaluation data concerning the societal, democratic and economic costs and benefits of citizen science. Consortia should choose a basket of indicators to measure the impact of their work against. In particular, consortia are expected to contribute to one or more of the MoRRI indicators (for instance PE1 to PE10) and to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Delegation Exception Footnote

It is expected that this topic will continue in 2020.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Gender
  • RRI
  • Open Science
  • International cooperation
Application date
Social sciences