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A citizen science decade (2020-2030) in support to the Sustainable Development Goals

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CS-SDG (A citizen science decade (2020-2030) in support to the Sustainable Development Goals)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-01-31

CS-SDG was a one-year project supported by the European Commission (EC) under its Horizon 2020 programme Science with and for Society implemented by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN). Its main objective was the organisation of a citizen science conference, which brought together impactful citizen science initiatives, provided policy input to ongoing European developments and aimed to inspire the upcoming ten years of citizen science initiatives. The CS-SDG project addressed this challenge by focusing on citizen science as a relevant approach to contributing to priority areas, such as the missions and the clusters in Horizon Europe, to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to building upon ongoing initiatives in the Open Science strategy, the European Research Area and Horizon 2020. The conference, titled “Knowledge for Change – A Decade of Citizen Science (2020-2030) in Support of the SDGs”, took place on 14th-15th October 2020 (in Berlin and online) as an official event of Germany’s 2020 EU Council Presidency.
The conference was organised as a place to gather policy-makers and citizen science projects – from all parts of the world and both community-led and academic-led – to build the future of citizen science policymaking. It represented a crucial opportunity to bring together lessons learnt from initiatives at different levels, to scale up their impacts, address existing challenges and harness the potential of citizen science towards achieving the SDGs. A public citizen science festival organised by ‘Wissenschaft im Dialog’ (WiD), the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) and MfN took place as part of the conference.
One of the main conference outcomes was to formulate a Declaration including policy recommendations to define the roles, competencies and concrete potentials of citizen science to advance the SDGs and focused on the future of citizen science and its implementation in future funding programmes. The Declaration titled “Our world – our goals: citizen science for the Sustainable Development Goals” (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4472729) was formulated in an open, bottom-up participatory process involving the citizen science and SDG communities.
The situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak made the organisation of this international conference particularly challenging. The CS-SDG team explored ways for holding a hybrid conference and complementing the live conference with digital formats for both conference participants and speakers to enable remote participation. In the end, this resulted in an event that could be followed both onsite and online via a conference software.
Impact
The conference programme was organised around the linkage of citizen science with all of the SDGs and comprised 19 sessions separated into three overarching themes in line with the objectives of the conference: “Addressing global challenges”, “Concepts and methodologies for the SDGs”, and “Policies, platforms and networks to achieve the SDGs”. In total, the conference programme included 81 presentations, 46 e-posters, 10 keynotes, 5 plenary talks, 2 panel discussions and 1 evening event.
An overview of the structure of the conference, as well as the descriptions of all sessions, can be found in the conference volume (https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4473072). 500 participants attended the conference online and 60 connected onsite in Berlin. All conference talks and formats were streamed and recorded, being made openly accessible in a YouTube playlist of the MfN (https://cutt.ly/3ctiEyi). This list contains 32 recordings and a short film on the CS SDG Conference and Declaration.
Based on the conference evaluation, we can conclude that the conference was able to bring together the citizen science and SDGs communities as well as representatives of the quadruple helix, foster the development of new ideas and projects, and demonstrate that as many stakeholders as possible are required to join efforts in order to solve global challenges and achieve the SDGs. For that, exchange between society and the scientific community must be supported and encouraged. A big step in this direction is the Conference Declaration.
Declaration
The main aim of the Declaration is the communication of the complexity and reliability of citizen science transparent for all. Aspiring to bring together the Citizen Science and SDG communities, the CS-SDG project team organised a series of five virtual meetings called “Become an author of the Declaration” during the summer organised and moderated by Jörn Knobloch from the CS-SDG project team at the MfN and hosted by ECSA.
The Declaration groups the various important contributions of citizen science to the SDGs in three central recommendations: 1) Harness the benefits of citizen science for the SDGs, 2) strengthen citizen science and its connections with other communities, and 3) strengthen future citizen science systems. Between the 8th of October 2020 and the 9th of February 2021, a total of 290 individuals and institutions/organisations/projects (thereof 184 individuals and 106 institutions/organisations) have signed the Declaration.
Survey
While preparing and disseminating the conference, we invited citizen science practitioners to participate in the survey. The first findings were presented at the conference in the session “Partnerships towards the goals – Making sustainable change sustainable”. An open-access publication titled “A Self-Assessment of European Citizen Science Projects on Their Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” with a more detailed analysis co-authored by Nicola Moczek, Silke Voigt-Heucke, Kim Mortega, Claudia Fabó Cartas, and Jörn Knobloch has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Sustainability (https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041774).
One of the aims of the conference was to help the European Commission and other research funding organisations assess the latest developments, impacts, benefits and challenges posed by citizen science. The conference provided epistemic information on the relationship between citizen science and the SDGs. Participants declared having a better understanding of citizen science and praised theoretical perspectives and critical approaches provided as well as best-practice examples. The link between citizen science and the SDGs was ever-present thus raising awareness among participants and promoting reflection. The conference brought together the citizen science and SDG communities, fostered the development of new ideas and projects, and demonstrated that as many stakeholders as possible are required to join efforts to solve global challenges and achieve the SDGs. For that, exchange between society and the scientific community must be supported and encouraged. A big step in this direction is the CS SDG Declaration.
The Declaration focuses on the future of citizen science and its implementation in future funding programmes, including Horizon Europe. It consists of policy recommendations as a voluntary commitment by citizen scientists, academics and policy-makers to define the roles, competencies and concrete potentials of citizen science to advance the SDGs. Thus, it provides policy input to ongoing European developments and can serve as a future reference in the preparation of suitable funding and policy responses to maximise the potential of citizen involvement in R&I for the SDGs.
CS SDG core team
CS SDG Conference logo
CS SDG Conference key visual