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Developing metrics and instruments to evaluate citizen science impacts on the environment and society

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MICS (Developing metrics and instruments to evaluate citizen science impacts on the environment and society)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2022-07-31

Neither policy makers nor scientists currently have enough empirical evidence on how citizen science contributes to scientific discoveries and benefits society. Innovative approaches and a more diverse array of citizen-science evaluation tools are needed to plan and implement projects in ways that lead to more powerful scientific outcomes and subsequent impacts. The MICS project researched and developed new tools for evaluating the social and environmental impacts of citizen science. In exploring these approaches and developing these tools (frameworks, guidelines, recommendations and applications), the MICS project focused on an interdisciplinary priority area of scientific enquiry where citizen science can be at the forefront, known as nature-based solutions (NBSs).
The MICS project also used NBSs as the shared context for evaluating a new co-creation approach to citizen science.
There is a clear need for viable strategies and tools to assess the scientific and societal implications of citizen science, and the MICS project developed these strategies and tools, by applying novel impact-assessment methods to a diverse range of citizen-science challenges in the context of NBSs, according to the following specific objectives:
• Provide comprehensive, participatory and inclusive metrics and instruments to evaluate citizen science impacts.
• Implement an impact-assessment knowledge base and tools for methods application, information visualisation, and delivery to decision makers, citizens and researchers.
• Improve the effectiveness of NBSs through test-site development and citizen-science tool validation.
• Generate new approaches that strengthen the role of citizen science in supporting research and development.
• Promote a citizen-science approach to increase the extent to which policy makers take up scientific evidence, through recommendations and guidelines.
With the knowledge and experience gained, MICS developed a platform in the area of impact assessment [https://mics.tools/] which is now fully functional and open to use. The project also compiled knowledge on a theoretical level and offers a catalogue of instruments for citizen-science--related impact-assessment [https://about.mics.tools/].
The European project MICS (Developing metrics and instruments to evaluate citizen science impacts on the environment and society) [https://www.mics.tools/] developed a platform to measure the impact of citizen science. The platform includes an impact-assessment method that considers the impacts of citizen science on the following domains: society, governance, the economy, the environment, and science and technology. And it offers a catalogue of instruments for citizen-science--related impact-assessment [https://about.mics.tools/].
The MICS project also adopted and adapted the best practice generated by the Ground Truth 2.0 European project in the co-creation of hands-on citizen science, and validated the resultant new methodology in case-study sites across Europe, finally obtaining a comprehensive conceptual framework and clear recommendations for those involved in citizen-science projects. The sites (in the UK, Italy, Hungary and Romania) explored the co-creation of citizen science in regions with differing needs, contexts, and approaches to environment management (for example, river restoration and nature-based solutions) and with various levels of citizen-science application. They also explored how to adapt the hands-on activities to the restrictions imposed by governments in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
MICS developed the first (software) platform to quantify the impact of citizen science, available at [https://mics.tools/]. The impact assessment of the MICS platform is based on an extremely comprehensive analysis of the state of the art in impact assessment related to citizen science (literature and methodologies). The impact assessment of the MICS platform uses a vastly more significant number of indicators (200) with respect to any previous methodology. These indicators characterise citizen science with an unprecedented depth and can be used by citizen-science projects not only to measure their impact but also to understand better the relation between the project activities and their impact, and consequently to improve the design of the project and its impact. This better understanding is also facilitated by the most extensive knowledge base on impact assessment in citizen science that the project made available at [https://about.mics.tools/] and that includes the complete documentation related to the project. Everything produced by MICS (deliverables, publications, methodologies, processed data, software code, algorithms) is available in the public domain and can be freely accessed and reused for any purpose and without restrictions. The MICS platform’s open and free availability should also facilitate its use when a new project is designed, to simulate its potential future impact, and by funding bodies, to measure, aggregate and compare the impact of the projects they support.
More specifically, the MICS consortium of leading citizen-science and NBS institutions progressed beyond the state of the art by:
• developing metrics and instruments to measure costs and benefits of citizen science, with particular attention to the domains of society, governance, the economy, the environment, and science and technology [https://about.mics.tools/];
• providing an integrated platform to apply these metrics and instruments [https://mics.tools/];
• considering best practices in the co-creation of hands-on citizen science validated in case-study sites across Europe;
• producing a comprehensive conceptual framework and clear recommendations [https://about.mics.tools/].
The MICS project, in case-study sites across Europe, also explored the applicability and usefulness of citizen-science co-creation tools in regions with differing needs, contexts, conditions, constraints and approaches to NBSs, and with various levels of citizen-science application and uptake. In some of the sites selected, MICS adopted the FreshWater Watch method [https://freshwaterwatch.thewaterhub.org/] which citizens used to monitor nitrates and phosphates in freshwater ecosystems.
The platform, the data and the totality of the results of MICS are openly available for use by anyone involved in a citizen-science project wanting to understand its impact, whether at the planning stage, during the project or after the project’s conclusion. The MIS impact-assessment tools apply to any citizen-science project, and MICS is collaborating with platforms like EU-Citizen.Science and the European Open Science Cloud to integrate the developed tools into those platforms.
Finally, the new MICS metrics and instruments can be used to measure the impact of citizen science in relation to the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
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