The Stockholm Environment Institute would like to share a discussion brief that Sarah West and Rachel Pateman have written about how citizen science could be used to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It discusses the challenges and opportunities and identifies areas where citizen science could be used not only to help monitor progress towards the SDGs, but also to help define metrics and support their implementation.
A growing movement
There is increasing recognition of the potential role of citizen science in realizing the SDGs. A number of organisations focused on data requirements for sustainable development have highlighted the potential of citizen science. The Eye on Earth Alliance, for example, has called for citizen science to be used to fill gaps in data required to measure progress towards the SDGs. Academics have also called for the mobilisation of citizens to track sustainability and generate data where official statistics are missing. Similarly, organisations promoting citizen involvement in development have recognised the role that citizen science can play (see, for example, the Global Partnership for Social Accountability Knowledge Platform).
This recognition has resulted in an increasing number of projects, and initiatives designed to support them. For example, the Open Seventeen platform offers support to crowdsourced SDG monitoring projects. CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation leads DataShift, which aims to help civil society organisations to “produce and use citizen collected-generated data”, including through direct support. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has collected examples and case studies of citizen science projects being used in relation to the SDGs.
Citizen science approaches have the potential to support the definition, monitoring and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Citizen science approaches, like any other research method, do have challenges, but these can be overcome by good planning, design and delivery.