Triggering change in policy adoption can be facilitated through an effective dissemination of the citizen science research results. But reaching the policy community can be challenging. Targeted results should be disseminated to decision-makers to facilitate the uptake of results. Sharing results with policy-makers can ensure that your research is applied and that it can lead to behavioural or collective change. In summary, it can ensure that your research has an impact. Inherent to a Citizen Observatory is to involve policy-makers from the beginning and to also keep them informed during the development of the project. You should incorporate their perspectives in order not to advance in separate ways.
When promoting your results with policy-makers, use dedicated events with dialogue and debate, and prepare clear and succinct policy briefs in which they can find the key impacts and implications of your project for their decision-making processes. The WeObserve project, aiming at moving citizen science into the mainstream, has developed two policy briefs and has organised and participated in several dedicated events where citizen science has been promoted in political agendas, in particular with regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Lessons learned from the Ground Truth 2.0 project
One of the Ground Truth 2.0 Citizen Observatories, RitmeNatura, is dedicated to the observation of phenological changes in plants and animals due to seasonal evolution, such as the flowering of plants, the emergence or falling of leaves, or the migrations of birds. This observation needs to be carried out by an extensive network of volunteers in order to provide valid data that can be compared with the corresponding climatic series, in terms of geographical coverage, species coverage and temporal coverage. In the co-design process during which the observatory was created, following the guidance of the Ground Truth 2.0 methodology, citizens, scientists and decision-makers were brought together to share their needs and expectations in relation to the Citizen Observatory. Emerging from this process, a collaboration agreement was signed between two of the stakeholders, the Barcelona Provincial Council, in charge of the management of the Natural Parks network, and the Catalan Meteorological Service, in charge of the Phenological network of Catalonia. In the agreement, the park rangers who depend on the Provincial Council would serve in the Phenological Network as observers, incorporating their phenological observations in the park into their daily activities as rangers. In this case, the Citizen Observatory was the triggering force that facilitated the contact between the organisations and raised awareness among them about the importance of the phenological observation and the possibilities existing for the two institutions.
Example from the Brenta-Bacchiglione Citizen Observatory
As part of the Flood Risk Management Plan (FRMP) of the Brenta-Bacchiglione catchment, a Citizen Observatory for flood risk management was set up during the WeSenseIt project (FP7, 2012-2016). Citizens were involved through monitoring water levels and providing other relevant information through mobile apps, linking Citizen Observatories with hydrological modelling to raise awareness of flood hazards and to facilitate two-way communication between citizens and local authorities. A Cost–Benefit Analysis (CBA) of this Citizen Observatory was done to demonstrate the value of this approach in monetary terms to ensure the wider acceptance of Citizen Observatories by policy-makers in Italy. The CBA demonstrated that a Citizen Observatory can decrease the social vulnerability of flood risk and reduce the average annual avoided damage costs by 45% compared to a ‘business as usual’ scenario (Ferri et al., 2020). The evidence of the social and economic value generated by the Citizen Observatory made it possible not only to raise funds from the Italian Ministry of Environment for the continued implementation of the Citizen Observatory; it also served to embed Citizen Observatories as a non-structural flood risk mitigation measure (M43 measure) in regional flood management policies.
Example from the WeObserve project
The WeObserve project has collected knowledge from Citizen Observatories, the WeObserve Communities of Practice, and other related initiatives and has consolidated these in two policy briefs with recommendations for policy-makers on how to foster Citizen Observatories to address environmental challenges. The first policy brief, entitled ‘A Roadmap for Citizen Science in GEO – The essence of the Lisbon Declaration’, aims to secure the integration of Citizen Science and Citizen Observatories into Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). This policy brief summarises three key messages from the Lisbon Declaration for European policy-makers and describes how best to connect and integrate Citizen Science communities as well as their activities and outputs into GEO. The second policy brief, entitled ‘Mission Sustainable: Fostering an enabling environment for sustainable Citizen Observatories’, provides recommendations that can contribute to the generation, execution and sustainability of Citizen Observatories. Based on a range of inputs from practitioners, the policy brief makes four specific recommendations to European and national funding bodies and policy-makers for fostering an enabling environment that can contribute to the generation, execution and sustainability of Citizen Observatories, thereby maximising their impact.