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Citizen Science for Sustainability: Inspiration From 30 Innovative Initiatives

Sustainability does not work if actors embark on individual journeys. This is why citizen science as an approach that relies on the collective participation of communities and the public has been growing in popularity in recent years. It is a method of exploring and identifying important questions, collecting relevant data, and analysing it to lead the way to new discoveries and enable novel solutions. In a recently-published report, our PSLifestyle project shares the results of its cross-European investigation of the latest inspiring citizen science initiatives.

Our PSLifestyle project launched in 2021 with the goal to help close the gap between climate awareness and individual action as well as increase citizen participation in sustainability topics. To do so, the project is engaging citizens through a digital tool to collect, monitor, and analyse their environment and consumption data as well as co-research, co-develop, and uptake everyday life solutions for climate change.

In order to develop the project’s methods of citizen engagement and the digital tool, the PSLifestyle project conducted research to learn from previous and current citizen science initiatives across Europe operating in the field of sustainability. Our latest report “Citizen Science for Sustainability” provides an overview of the current context of citizen science for sustainability, emerging innovations in the field, and inspiring initiatives to refer to in designing new citizen science initiatives in the context of sustainable lifestyles. We derive our main findings from desk-based research, the analysis of 30 inspirational citizen science initiatives, and interviews with 27 stakeholders who have been involved in those initiatives.

The findings are shared under 4 key elements of citizen science projects: setting up and reaching out to participants; gathering data from and with citizens; keeping people engaged; and implementing meaningful change. From examples of gamification to engage participants to the types of partnerships needed to ensure lasting impact, the real-life examples not only provide inspiration for future projects, but also highlight ways to avoid challenges that project teams may face along the way.

In order to support learning from the case studies, the report provides information on each project’s location, scale of implementation, level of citizen engagement, and topic area as well as further detail on who is involved and how they got involved; how citizens are involved in the collection and use of data; how the initiative is organised; and why we see it as particularly inspirational. Finally, the report reflects on the key findings of the research and sets out ways in which the PSLifestyle project will build upon the work of inspiring examples as we shape the approach of our citizen science living labs in the upcoming phases of the project.

The report is designed to be a source of inspiration beyond the PSLifestyle project and support other initiatives focusing on citizen science. If you are involved in a similar initiative, we would be glad to hear about your experience, too – connect with us!

For further questions, please contact Arlind Xhelili.