Citizen science and sustainability transitions


Work data:

ISSN: 0048-7333

Type of work: Article (academic)


Open Access | Research & Methodologies


citizen science


Citizen Science (CS) projects involve members of the general public as active participants in research. While some advocates hope that CS can increase scientific knowledge production (“productivity view”), others emphasize that it may bridge a perceived gap between science and the broader society (“democratization view”). We discuss how an integration of both views can allow Citizen Science to support complex sustainability transitions in areas such as renewable energy, public health, or environmental conservation. We first identify 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 important 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.