Citizen science makes breakthrough post-pandemic

Excerpt from Times Higher Education

Equity challenges loom, but solidifying evidence of value brings academic stature to science of partnering with the public

November 19, 2021
Look up! Scholars can learn from amateur enthusiasts, such as birdwatchers on the hunt for a great horned owl in New York

After a decade of steady growth in the concept of citizen science, several US universities are placing big bets that the approach is hitting critical breakthroughs in cost savings and capacity for discovery.

The front-runners include North Carolina State University, Arizona State University and Cornell University, all of which have hired faculty to systematically push ways of infusing research with public input.

The institutions have positioned themselves out front at a moment of fast-accumulating evidence that average citizens can make meaningful contributions to science – yet amid lingering concerns about data accuracy and reliability, and more substantial fears about undermining social equity.

Academic sceptics remained, but the evidence of net value has now become overwhelming, said one leading practitioner, Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice at Arizona State. “That ship has turned for sure,” Professor Cavalier said.

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Categories: In the News


About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a professor of practice at Arizona State University's School for the Future of Innovation in Society and a Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU. Professor Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter (a popular citizen science portal and research platform connecting millions of people to real science they can do), founder of Science Cheerleaders (a non profit organization comprised of current and former NFL, NBA and college cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers), cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology and cofounder of She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, an advisor and Fellow at National Geographic, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee and named cochair of America 250's Innovation, Science, and Entrepreneurism Advisory Council. She is the co-editor of "The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science," author of "The Science of Cheerleading," and co-author of the Field Guide to Citizen Science (Timber Press). Recently, ASU President Michael Crow awarded Cavalier and her team the prestigious Medal for Social Embeddedness.