Citizen science on its way… to Norway!

Citizen science represents an opportunity for Norwegian policy-workers to engage citizens in policy-making. But this practice is still rarely employed in Norway to benefit policies as the citizen science field is small and its integration as a policy mechanism faces challenges. During our latest ACTION masterclass, together with participants we found strategies to leverage citizen science for policy in Norway, such as a Norwegian citizen science data portal coordinated by the Norse government, expectation management and meta-tagging knowledge practices.

This article is written by Cléa Montanari (intern at DRIFT) & Sonja Grossberndt (scientist at NILU)
A class to master citizen science for policy workers
Both scientists and policy workers have been paying more attention to citizen science recently, as it offers new ways for members of the public to contribute to scientific research. But how can these contributions make it into policy? This was the topic of the second online policy masterclass organized by ACTION on the 20th of May 2021 in Norway.   
We discussed challenges, benefits and strategies to leverage citizen science for policy.
Jetlag? try policy-cycle lag!
One challenge lies in the ‘time lag’ between citizen science activities and policy impact, and the management of participants’ expectations around influencing policy processes as a result. It often takes a lot of time before contributors to a citizen science project can feel the impact of their contribution on policy, which can be demotivating.
To deal with this, a participant proposed to develop a method for policy actors to communicate short-term impact from the citizen science activity alongside the policy process. This would surely bolster motivation on the citizen science side of things.
Tagging, contextualizing knowledge?
Another highlighted challenge common to the field of citizen science was on the type and quality of data generated by citizen science projects in relation to scientific standards. Regarding this issue, a participant suggested that knowledge could come with a meta-tag indicating its level of certainty. This meta tag would contextualize the information generated by citizen science activities by, for example, mentioning the time or place of data collection. This ought to combat the issue of ‘biased’ information coming out of citizen science data (e.g. see Bishop et al., 2020).
In addition, participants highlighted a third group other than policy and scientist actors that are often not mentioned to worry about this issue- those who are affected by policy decisions.
Veien videre i Norge
The masterclass moreover served the purpose to highlight key requirements specific to Norway for citizen science to support policy processes. Citizen science is an activity already used by some policy actors in Norway, however it is very sparse and focused on environmental monitoring (e.g. Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre). A Norwegian citizen science portal would open for new opportunities. It would allow the Norwegian citizen science community to better connect and create a stronger link with (higher level) governmental bodies. It was further suggested that this portal could be coordinated by a governmental forum around data.
We hope this masterclass pushes efforts to leverage citizen science in policy for sustainability transitions in Norway!
Are you joining us on the next stop?
This masterclass is part of a series of policy masterclasses in six countries (Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain & the UK) on how policy workers can better support citizen science initiatives, to make their countries and cities a more healthy, sustainable and attractive place to live. To stimulate interaction, the masterclasses use extensive context- and network-scoping and facilitate co-creation between (citizen) scientists and policy makers.
Would you like to know more about the benefits and challenges of citizen science for policy processes? And would you like to explore strategies with other policy workers to better utilize the benefits of citizen science? Register your interest in one of the remaining masterclasses via this link.

June 17, 2021