Citizen science is the public participating “in scientific research activities when citizens actively contribute to science either with their intellectual effort or surrounding knowledge or with their tools and resources” (European Commission, 2014). The term covers a range of activities with different levels of participation, from data collection in projects led by trained scientists to co-designing research questions and policy, to science literacy and public engagement. To truly be considered citizen science it is important that projects have the intention to contribute to research, to produce new research-based knowledge, and for their activities to be carried out by participating citizens. Citizen participation is inherent to citizen science projects and their goals.

Citizen science engages volunteers in a range of scientific activities. This helps educate and inform citizens on the subject matter and leads to a greater public understanding of how science and scientists work. Participation in citizen science can increase trust in science and expert opinions, enhance critical thinking, and ultimately fight misinformation, disinformation and fake news.

Scientists can learn from citizen science about what people genuinely care about, the impact their work has or should have in society, and become more participatory, by involving volunteers early on in co-designing the research, collecting, cleaning, and analysing the data, documenting the results, and sharing the recognition.