Is Citizen Science Reliable?

The expansion of citizen science has resulted in debate about the scientific qualities of the contribution of citizens.

In a study published in Plos One in 2014, researchers evaluated a review of 10 claims of impacts of climate change on avian migration. They found no reference to “citizen science” in any of these publications, although citizen science actually contributed to 24-77% of references. Cooper et al. (2014, p. 1 ) stated that the “quality of data collected by volunteers, on a project-by-project basis, has generally been found as reliable as the data collected by professionals.”

Here, we are going to hear more on this from Dr. Julia Baird and the research she led comparing citizen science data with data collected by an expert in the field of natural resource management. 


Baird et al.’s (2021) study compares four different approaches for evaluating ecological outcomes of a grassland restoration site located on Niagara Parks Commission property. Data on the ecological health of the site was collected using the following approaches: field expert, community science, stakeholder perceptions, and remote sensing. Findings from the study suggest that for overall site assessments (more broad), community scientists and stakeholders may be able to provide a reasonably accurate assessment. However, the use of a field expert or multiple methods of data collection may be necessary for more detailed or specific M&E needs. Click here to read the full study in the Journal of Environmental Management.



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Building Sustainable Communities: Monitoring and Evaluation Copyright © by Ryan Plummer; Amanda Smits; Samantha Witkowski; Bridget McGlynn; Derek Armitage; Ella-Kari Muhl; and Jodi Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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