Exploring opportunities for citizen science in policy and practice in preventive health
Leah Marks delivered this presentation at the Public Health Association of Australia’s (PHAA’s) annual prevention conference in Brisbane, 11-13 May 2022.
Citizen science approaches, which actively involve the public in scientific research, are increasingly being utilised in preventive health research. However, little is known about whether and how citizen science may be used to address the needs of policy and practice organisations. Insights gained from this project will inform further research aimed at supporting and embedding citizen science approaches within policy and practice settings. Much potential is offered by citizen science approaches to strengthen partnerships between communities, researchers, practitioners and policymakers to develop and address shared research agendas that reflect communities’ needs, and ultimately, to inform policy and practice.
Using a mixed-methods approach, this study conducted an online survey and semi-structured interviews with policy and practice stakeholders working in preventive health in Australia. The survey explored familiarity with citizen science approaches and perspectives of their benefits, opportunities and challenges. Participants were largely familiar with and supportive of citizen science approaches in preventive health, with over half of survey respondents indicating they see a role for citizen science in their work (56%) and prevention policy and practice more broadly (82%). Many participants saw these approaches complementing and strengthening their existing community engagement strategies and discussed opportunities for citizen science to contribute valuable data, increase community acceptance of and advocacy for actions to improve health, and to bring together key stakeholders to address complex health problems. Participants identified a range of challenges to using citizen science approaches, including data quality and ownership, governance and a lack of resourcing and/or expertise.