Harnessing the power of citizen science for prevention
Project title: Engaging the public in the wider conversation about prevention in Australia
Start date: April 2020
Estimated end date: March 2023
What is the issue?
Engaging the public in research and decision making in prevention is crucial if the public health community is to achieve equitable, feasible and acceptable solutions to the complex health challenges we face.
Citizen science, broadly defined as public participation and collaboration in scientific research, is increasingly gaining traction in public health due to its potential to gain new perspectives on problems and solutions, monitor policy and program implementation, obtain difficult to access data, and mobilise support for action to improve health.
However, little is known about how policy and practice stakeholders in Australia perceive citizen science approaches in prevention, whether and how they value data collected by community members, to what extent these approaches can be used by policy and practice stakeholders to address the needs of their organisations, and what resources and support stakeholders require to enable citizen science to be integrated within their work. Also, little is known about whether and why members of the public engage in citizen science projects in prevention or how to foster engagement and maximise the impact of these approaches.
How is the project addressing the issue?
This is a co-produced research project in which researchers will support policy and practice partners to develop and implement citizen science projects in their own contexts. This will enable partners to develop practical experience and expertise in citizen science approaches and become champions for this approach, paving this way for others to follow.
Using a case study approach, the project team will work with the partners to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the citizen science projects to explore the feasibility and impacts of citizen science in prevention. We have also established a Community of Practice and are developing a suite of resources to support the use of citizen science approaches by policy and practice stakeholders in prevention.
Through literature reviews and interviews with key stakeholders, the project will also explore familiarity with and perceptions of citizen science approaches and the intersections between citizen science and other approaches to public engagement in the development and implementation of policy.
What are the expected outcomes?
The key outcomes from this project for policy and practice stakeholders in chronic disease prevention include:
- Improved understanding of the perceived value and impact of citizen science in prevention
- Understanding of feasibility of citizen science approaches
- Tailored resources to support policy and practice stakeholders
- Increased capacity of stakeholders to develop and implement citizen science projects.
Relevance for practice
This project will build awareness and capacity in citizen science approaches among policy and practice stakeholders across Australia through hands-on experience and tailored resources.
Case study evaluations will demonstrate the impact and value of citizen science approaches across a range of issues and contexts in prevention, as well as highlighting key challenges and learnings, further paving the way for policy and practice stakeholders to develop citizen science projects for their own purposes.
The insights gained throughout this project will inform the development of resources to support the delivery of citizen science projects in chronic disease prevention.
Dr Samantha Rowbotham, University of Sydney
Dr Yvonne Laird, University of Sydney
Professor Ben Smith, University of Sydney
Leah Marks (PhD candidate and Research Assistant), University of Sydney
Pippy Walker (Senior Research Officer), University of Sydney
Professor Katina D’Onise, Wellbeing SA
Katherine Pontifex, Wellbeing SA
Emma Saleeba, VicHealth
Sean O’Rourke, VicHealth
Karen Wardle, South Western Sydney Local Health District
Amani Sobhan, South Western Sydney Local Health District
Kate Garvey, Tasmanian Department of Health
Dr Kim Jose, University of Tasmania
This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.
Citizen science in prevention newsletter
The citizen science in prevention newsletter provides regular updates on how this citizen science project is progressing as well as information around citizen science projects, resources, events, and our community of practice. To receive the project newsletter, click here.
This project will develop a series of resources to help policy and practice stakeholders apply citizen science approaches in prevention.
Case study series
This case study series aims to support the use of citizen science approaches by highlighting examples of how these approaches have been applied in practice and sharing key learnings. We are working with our partner organisations to prepare these case studies upon completion of each of the four citizen science projects that feature within this program of work.
- Download a PDF case study that contains the project team’s reflections on using citizen science to improve active living in rural Tasmania
- Understanding and promoting active living in rural Tasmania – UPROAR reflection session summary (PDF)
Community of Practice for Citizen Science in Prevention
Our Community of Practice (CoP) for Citizen Science in Prevention brings together people from research, policy, practice, and the community who have an interest in citizen science approaches in prevention.
The CoP provides a forum to share knowledge, ideas, and resources, and discuss challenges and strategies to support the design, delivery, and evaluation of citizen science projects.
The CoP meets online bi-monthly, alternating between workshops for partners involved in this project and guest speaker sessions for anyone interested in citizen science approaches in prevention.
To join our Community of Practice (CoP) for Citizen Science in Prevention, click here.
- Join us for our session on: Using citizen science to monitor unhealthy marketing on social media, Wednesday 22 September 2021
- Key challenges in designing and delivering citizen science projects (Partner workshop; July 2021)
- Citizen Science for a Greener Adelaide, presented by Dr Helen Barrie. Guest speaker session; May 2021.
- Recruitment and engagement of citizen scientists (Partner workshop; March 2021)
- Tuckett AG, Rowbotham S, Hetherington S, Goddard J, King AC. Using citizen science to empower older adults to improve a food security initiative in Australia. Health Promotion International. 2021. doi:10.1093/heapro/daab060
- Rowbotham S, Walker P, Marks L, Smith B, Laird Y. Building capacity for citizen science for policy and practice in prevention, Public Health Association of Australia Preventive Health Conference, May 2021, Rapid fire short virtual presentation.
- Laird Y, Walker P, Marks L, Smith B, Rowbotham S. Policy- and practice-led citizen science in prevention: motivations and challenges, Public Health Association of Australia Preventive Health Conference, May 2021, Rapid fire short oral face-to-face presentation.
- Marks L, Laird Y, Trevena H, Smith B, Bellew W, Rowbotham S. Engaging the public in prevention: a scoping review of citizen science approaches, Public Health Association of Australia Preventive Health Conference, May 2021, Conversation starter short oral virtual presentation.
- Marks L, Smith B, Mitchell J, Rowbotham S. Understanding policy and practice stakeholder perceptions of citizen science in prevention, Public Health Association of Australia Preventive Health Conference, May 2021, Rapid fire short oral virtual presentation.
- Marks L, Rowbotham S, Smith B, Mitchell J. Exploring the potential for citizen science in preventive health policy and practice, CitSci Virtual, May 2021, Online poster.
- Rowbotham S. Building capacity for citizen science in public health, CitSci Virtual, May 2021, Online poster.
- Rowbotham, S. & Laird, Y. Citizen science for public health. Presentation to Wellbeing SA and local council partners. May 2020.
- Rowbotham, S. & Laird, Y. Reflecting on the challenges of an online citizen science projects in health: the case of Presentation to CPC Citizen Science Node Ideas Exchange. October 2020.
- Rowbotham, S. & Laird, Y. Citizen science approaches for population health. Presentation to Tasmanian Public Health Services Talk Series. November 2020.
- Rowbotham, S. Citizen Science and Health Promotion. Presentation and workshop at South Western Sydney Local Health District Health Promotion Service whole of service meeting, Liverpool, NSW, Australia. February 2020.