Citizen Science

Citizen science is a growing trend in involving the public in different types of collaboration with scientists. The growth of this activity has consequences for data collection and data analysis and the way in which science is carried out. It also has a potential impact on what, and how, citizen scientists learn about science when engaged in such activities. In OU research, we are interested in the links between formal and informal learning, the growth of such learning opportunities and the approaches that have been taken to assessing informal learning associated with citizen science.

Citizen inquiry is located at the intersection between ‘citizen science’ and ‘inquiry-based learning’ and refers to mass participation of the public in joining and initiating inquiry-led scientific investigations. Specifically, ‘it fuses the creative knowledge building of inquiry learning with the mass collaborative participation exemplified by citizen science, changing the consumer relationship that most people have with research to one of active engagement’.  The ‘citizen inquiry’ paradigm shifts the emphasis of scientific inquiry from scientists to the general public, by having non-professionals (of any age and level of experience) determine their own research agenda and devise their own science investigations underpinned by a model of scientific inquiry.

It makes extensive use of web 2.0 and mobile technologies to facilitate massive participation of the public of any age, including youngsters, in collective, online inquiry-based activities. Citizen inquiry aims to leverage the pedagogical potential of inquiry-based learning – a productive approach to the development of learners’ knowledge of the world and the enhancement of higher-order thinking skills – through opening up massive participation in inquiry-based activities.

Among research questions studied: How can sustainable communities of citizen scientists be created and how can platforms to support citizen science inquiry be developed.

Our platforms for the conduct of citizen science projects include:

  • iSpot, a free community helping to identify wildlife and share nature.
  • Situ8, a mobile app for collecting and uploading geo-tagged media objects to a repository.
  • nQuire-it with its associated mobile tool Sense-it: are also in use. nQuire-it extended our work on personal inquiry to support young people to act as scientists by enabling them to take part in genuine scientific practice.  Young Citizen Inquiry employed a design-based research approach, to iteratively design, implement and test some citizen inquiry activities including work on Weather and Rock Hunters

Key people

More information about the Citizen Inquiry Research Group