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Laying the groundwork towards Europe-wide citizen science campaigns

Citizen science, involving citizens directly in the development of new knowledge or innovations, is a rapidly emerging mode of research and innovation that can lead to increased quality and effectiveness, e.g. through collecting, processing or analysing new qualities and quantities of data.

Many citizen science initiatives could achieve much higher impact if they were implemented on a transnational basis, collecting, analysing and exploiting vast amounts of cross-country data and, thereby, building a multinational community of citizen scientists. However, small-scale national citizen science projects often face practical, technical, or conceptual challenges and lack the support, the transnational coordination skills, and the resources, to upscale their efforts to a transnational level.

This action should conduct preparatory work for the launch of Europe-wide citizen science campaigns under the New ERA, which will also have synergies with Horizon Europe EU Missions. The action should identify the most promising citizen science initiatives for transnational upscaling, foster the development of broad societal coalitions around the identified and promising initiatives, and propose how to unlock the necessary funding commitments (e.g. from EU and national programmes and funders, philanthropic, and/or commercial sources) required.

Europe-wide citizen science campaigns should require the involvement of quadruple helix stakeholders. Citizen science ‘champions’ in public authorities should be envisaged, to raise awareness, ‘connect the dots’ between different services and institutions, and obtain broad and high-level commitments. The involvement of SMEs and industry could lead to new means to organise, collect and analyse data, and disseminate and exploit results. The involvement of research stakeholders will be essential to ensuring rigorous and credible research approaches and maximising scientific and technological impacts. Obtaining the inputs of civil society, involving and making youth aware of CS, building understanding of the activities (including their scientific bases), and fostering broad societal ownership of the promising initiatives could prove crucial to the scale and intensity of the eventual citizen science campaigns.

Europe-wide citizen science campaigns should aim to cover a majority, – and potentially all – ERA countries; involve citizens at different stages of the research cycle (e.g. development of methods, data collection, data analysis, evidence-based advocacy processes, testing and evaluation); be inclusive and make particular efforts to involve those from lower socio-economic groups; and aim to deliver a range of additional benefits such as increased scientific literacy, improved trust in science, improved social inclusion and employability, and improved capacity within the scientific workforce to engage with society.

The action should conduct a thorough screening of potential initiatives to be upscaled, analysing the most promising in terms of synergies with one or more Horizon Europe EU Missions, the potential to advance scientific knowledge, and generation of a range of additional benefits. The action should develop scientific protocols, establish working modalities with open data repositories and infrastructures, prepare training (e.g. for volunteers and volunteer co-ordinators), develop societal engagement and science communication strategies, and propose how to mobilise diverse commitments for funding.

The action will build on the existing knowledge base and experience, including previous projects focused on citizen science, citizen engagement activities in the context of Horizon Europe EU Missions, citizen observatories, and the upscaling of the Plastic Pirates – Go Europe! (plastic-pirates.eu) campaign. It will work in collaboration with existing networks and actions, and develop synergies with the actions supported by HORIZON-WIDERA-2021-ERA-01-60 and HORIZON-WIDERA-2021-ERA-01-61. The action supports ERA Policy Agenda action 14 to bring science closer to the citizens.