Harnessing the power of citizen science for prevention


Status completed

Start Date

End Date


Engaging the public in the wider conversation about prevention in Australia

Project title

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 did the project address the issue?

In this co-produced research project, researchers supported policy and practice partners to develop and implement citizen science projects in their own contexts. This enabled partners to develop practical experience and expertise in citizen science approaches and become champions for this approach, paving the way for others to follow.

Using a case study approach, the project team worked with the partners to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the citizen science projects to explore the feasibility and impacts of policy and practice stakeholder-led citizen science approaches in prevention, with the goal of supporting the use of citizen science approaches by policy and practice stakeholders in prevention.

Through literature reviews and interviews with key stakeholders in prevention and beyond, the project also explored 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.

Relevance for practice

This project built awareness and capacity in citizen science approaches among policy and practice stakeholders across Australia through hands-on experience and tailored resources.

Case study evaluations demonstrated 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 help inform the development of resources to support the delivery of citizen science projects in chronic disease prevention.


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.




News and media

Other news and media

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 more general information around other types of citizen science projects, resources, events, and our community of practice. To receive the project’s newsletter, click here.

Newsletter editions


Other resources

Community of practice for citizen science in prevention

Our community of practice 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 community of practice meets bi-monthly and 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.

To join this community of practice, click here.

Summaries from community of practice sessions

  • July 2023: Using Citizen Science to address prevention challenges – findings from the 3-year program of work [Text summary] [Visual summary]
  • March 2023: Scaling the voice of older adults – reflections on co-creating healthy ageing smart communities [Text summary] [Visual summary]
  • November 2022: Toowoomba Healthy Towns: Co-creating physical activity supportive environments [Text summary] [Visual summary]
  • September 2022: Citizen science and people with disability [Visual summary]
  • May 2022: YourGround: Towards a safer and more accessible city [Visual summary]
  • March 2022: Reflections on rural walkability project [Visual summary]
  • December 2021: Generating awareness and acceptance of citizen science approaches [Visual summary]
  • September 2021: Using citizen science to monitor unhealthy marketing on social media [Visual summary]
  • July 2021: Key challenges in designing and delivering citizen science projects [Visual summary]
  • May 2021: Citizen Science for greener, healthier neighbourhoods [Visual summary]
  • March 2021: Recruitment and engagement of citizen scientists [Visual summary]


Other publications

Conference presentations 


  • Laird Y, Pontifex K. Applying citizen science approaches in preventive health, AES Conference, August 2022.
    • Presentation slides (PDF)
    • Sketchnote summary of the AES session on Citizen Science, hand drawn by Julia Curtis using the digital drawing package ProCreate. It captures some of the conversation about what is needed to build capacity for effective Citizen Science collaborations. It identifies that Citizen Science is about engagement of the public in science and evaluation and that it takes many forms, ranging from deep engagement to consultation. Examples of Citizen Science that were discussed in the presentation included COVID Tracking by Communities through to public health projects such as Community Gardens. A key part of the discussions at the Conference that are captured on the sketchnote include the need to support and protect the privacy and confidentiality of data and people who are participating in Citizen Science projects.


  • 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.

Other presentations

  • 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.



This project is funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, Wellbeing SA, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth.