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WageningenX: Transformative Citizen Science for Sustainability

Go beyond citizen-gathered data. Learn to design projects that actively mobilise citizens, policy makers and scientists to improve human and ecological wellbeing. In this advanced course, world leading experts from Wageningen University & Research share key principles and practices for Transformative Citizen Science for Sustainability. Join us and develop your own ideas about citizen science.

Transformative Citizen Science for Sustainability
10 weeks
3–5 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Optional upgrade available

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After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Nov 27
Starts Jan 2, 2024

About this course

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Citizens & scientists join forces

Citizen science has become an essential approach to address urgent sustainability challenges. It is critical that science and society work together. Science becomes more relevant as scientists and citizens upscale data collection, co-create knowledge and collectively act on outcomes.

" Transformative citizen science goes a step further. It is not just about knowing and 'doing things better' but also about 'doing better things' altogether."

For example, the BigO project ‘Big data against childhood Obesity‘ massively increased data collection, reaching out to over twenty thousand children from different countries to contribute over 107.000 pictures and other data on the impact of lifestyle and living conditions on health and well-being. It led to more awareness of schools on promotion of healthy behaviours across different income groups, and sparked changes on public health policy.

In this course you will explore several such successful examples of citizen science, including projects on:

  • water and air quality
  • disease
  • climate change and
  • loss of green spaces and biodiversity

Transforming society together

Well-designed citizen science enables citizens to collect, interpret and share data. Transformative citizen science goes a step further. It allows citizens to contribute to change on issues that matter to them. It is a process that challenges our assumptions and values, to co-create innovative solutions that can tackle sustainability challenges. It is not just about knowing and doing things better but also about doing better things all together

Your project and WUR's Citizen Science Hub

Citizen science can be used in a range of contexts, involving multiple stakeholders representing the world of civic society, governance and education. In this course you will develop a deep understanding of CS, the diverse ways of using it in practice, and the principles that make it work.

As course participant you gain access to a community of practice established by the Wageningen University & Research’s Citizen Science Hub, in which practitioners engage and support the development of new projects from across the globe.

Having this expertise will help you in gaining a position in governmental and non-governmental organisations as well as in institutions of higher education who are exploring ways to develop and utilize CS in an ambition to contribute to the transformation of the society at large. In other words, organisations and institutions that go beyond self-gain, with an intrinsic drive to help communities in becoming more sustainable, including the well-being of the collective and the planet.

For Whom

Are you:

  • a policy maker interested in developing broadly supported and informed solutions to sustainability issues?
  • a concerned citizen or professional working in an NGO or activist organization wishing to support citizens in working towards healthier, greener and more sustainable communities?
  • or an academic wishing to have more societal impact with your research by working more closely with citizens?

This course will help you take the next steps in making citizen science work for you.

At a glance

  • Institution: WageningenX
  • Subject: Science
  • Level: Advanced
  • Prerequisites:
    • MSc-level thinking and research skills
    • BSc-level certificate with experience in public or academic research or consultancy in an interdisciplinary field, or having followed an introductory course on academic research methods
    • Academic or professional experience with citizen engagement
  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Evidence Collection, Community Sustainability, Data Collection, Research, Governance, Innovation, Design Elements And Principles

What you'll learn

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In this course you will have the ability to:

  1. Develop a plan for initiating and sustaining a citizen science project, including strategies and skills for communication, data collection and management, and ethics.
  2. Gain insight in the advantages of different types of citizen science projects, ranging from science-oriented to action-oriented, and the challenges of balancing citizen participation and scientific rigour.
  3. Understand trade-offs in engaging citizens in each project phase from goal formulation to project evaluation. Practical examples and tools are given for data collection and storage, and communicating for impact.

The course is composed of theoretical and practical assignments that will enable you to:
- Understand the basic characteristics of Citizen Science
- Identify the strategic decisions of a citizen science project and activities for citizen involvement.
- Identify requirements and methods for data monitoring, storing, sharing, analysis, interpretation.
- Assess and communicate the process, outcomes and impact of a citizen science project.

Practical assignments:
Course staff and peers will give you feedback on your own project plan. This will help you master the iterative design-implementation cycle of goal-design-collect-evaluate. You will learn to:
- Determine your sustainability challenge as a citizen science opportunity.
- Develop a strategy for your Transformative Citizen Science Project.
- Plan the data monitoring, storing, sharing, analysis, interpretation of your project.
- Assess and communicate the process, outcomes and impact of your project.

MODULE 1: Citizen Science Basics

Increasingly, non-scientists are contributing to the scientific process in a myriad of CS initiatives worldwide. Given the urgency of the sustainability challenges of our time, opening up the scientific process to non-scientists is a powerful way to address these wicked problems. In this module you will learn the basic definitions and terms to understand different CS practices. You will know about setting goals and research questions to be tackled by a CS endeavour, how to identify who is directly and indirectly involved, and what ethical concerns to bear in mind when developing and deploying a CS project.

MODULE 2: Project strategy and design

This module will help you to decide on your overall project strategy and design. Given the CS goal, you learn how to define the appropriate level of engagement of scientists, citizens , policy makers and other stakeholders in different phases of the CS project, and find a gamut of possible communication tools. You will also learn how to define a strategy for the data collection, the recruitment plan, and the mobilization of citizen scientists in the project.

MODULE 3: Methods and tools

In this module, you will learn about the technical part of CS, including the requirements for platforms and methods for collecting data of good quality. This module helps you to oversee the data flow and specific expertise that you may need to handle and interpret collected data. Lastly, it will also help you to identify data privacy issues. These topics will be illustrated by many examples of existing CS projects.

MODULE 4: Communication and Impact
In this module we focus on practices of monitoring, evaluation, and communication linked to the envisaged impact of the CS project. How to mobilize knowledge and expertise from citizen scientists, engage them in action but also ensure their needs are met? How to connect with policy makers and their political agenda? And what about mass - and social media, informing the wider public to put issues on the societal agenda or create trust and political support? What is the right content, language, format and timing of your message? We also reflect in this module on ethical issues involved in these practices.

Transversely to the theoretical modules 1, 2, 3 and 4 this course also contemplates the practical application of the acquired knowledge in a continued practical module called Transformative Citizen Science Project. In this continued module you will have the opportunity to choose a sustainable challenge of your interest and context to practice the tools and skills acquired to create and implement a citizen science project.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do you have questions about the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and/or related online programmes of Wageningen University & Research? To help you find answers to your questions, we created a list with frequently asked questions about enrolling, participating in- and finishing a MOOC.

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