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European Research Executive Agency
News article21 February 2022European Research Executive Agency

Breakthroughs in tackling climate change powered by citizen science projects

Opening up science to society is essential to enrich research and to reinforce societies trust in science and innovation in the battle against climate change

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William Herschel, Florence Nightingale and Isaac Newton are renowned for making some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 18th century and above all share one thing in common: they began their careers as citizen scientists. Citizen science can be described as public participation (individuals, teams or networks of volunteers) in scientific research, conducted in whole or in part, by amateur or non-professional scientists. The aim of citizen science is to bring advancements in scientific research outputs and impacts as well as increase the public's understanding of science.

Under the Science with and for Society (SwafS) part of Horizon 2020, the European Commission seeks to promote citizen science projects in research methodologies by changing a predominantly scientist-led process to a more participatory, inclusive, citizen-involved one.

The following examples highlight how citizen science projects, funded by Horizon 2020, are already having a positive impact on European society and contributing to the EU Green Deal objectives. They focus on the greatest threat of our generation, climate change, seeking to leverage the diversity of the citizen science landscape and to address the different, evolving challenges citizen science teams face.


Crowd4SDG is designed to stimulate the genesis of citizen science projects through an innovation cycle called GEAR (Gather, Evaluate, Accelerate, Refine). The transdisciplinary Crowd4SDG consortium of six partners promotes the development of citizen science projects aimed at tackling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on climate action. Its goal is to assess how citizen science initiatives can be used to measure progress towards the SDGs by fostering practical innovations developed by young citizen scientists from all over the world, using artificial intelligence. During the project’s Open17Water Challenge, participants between the ages of 16 and 26 submitted projects that tackled water-related issues such as droughts, access to clean water and flooding. The two winning teams, To See-To Care and Well Yes had the chance to present their work at the Geneva Trialogue, a one-day event gathering academic, private sector and multilateral stakeholders to discuss knowledge and learning tools, platforms and initiatives for the SDGs thanks to Crowd4SDG.


The ACTION (Participatory science toolkit against pollution) project brings together the needs of multiple stakeholders throughout the entire lifecycle of a citizen science project, creating methodologies, tools and guidelines that democratise the scientific process. The co-designed ACTION Accelerator programme supports local citizen science projects across Europe reaching communities that are underrepresented in science e.g. those with visual impairments, by providing intensive support, peer-to-peer mentoring and training when analysing or collecting data on various types of pollution. One such ACTION initiative in PO Valley, Italy, called WOWnature seeks to measure air pollution, gathering data using quality sensors in forests run by citizens’ groups and financed through the web-based platform for forest finance. Another pilot, Open Soil Atlas consists of a website in Berlin, Germany, that presents data in an infographic form to raise awareness about soil quality and fertility highlighting the correlation between healthy soil and healthy communities. A similar success, yet more global in nature, the Restart Data Workbench project seeks to address mass consumerism by tackling the increasingly ephemeral, single use nature of household electronics. By collecting data about attempted repairs at community repair events, the aim is to analyse sustainable consumption patterns with a view to influencing policy discussions internationally.


Through its co-creative multi-stakeholder approach, TeRRifica via its crowdmapping tool continues to invite citizens to mark climate change hot spots on a digital map across six pilot regions in Europe, and then involve them in co-creation processes to develop climate change action plans. Participants have the opportunity to expand their knowledge around climate change while at the same time identify opportunities, drivers and barriers of climate action. The project organises field trips to promising local and regional activities on research and regional innovation as part of its broader stakeholder engagement. Through workshops as well as regional and international summer schools, TeRRIFICA aims to empower local people, with a particular focus on regional authorities and policy makers, to develop together initiatives aimed at tackling climate change.

The EU is committed to democratising science to support the fight against climate change. As Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research and Youth states “Opening up science to society is essential to enrich research and to reinforce societies trust in science and innovation. Together we can enlarge our collective capabilities in the scope of innovative solutions to fight climate change.”

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Publication date
21 February 2022
European Research Executive Agency