Standard Presentation (15 mins) Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

Utility and quality of citizen science in pollution research (#109)

Grace Nye-Butler 1 , Graeme Clark 1 , Emma Johnston 1 , John Turnbull 1
  1. UNSW, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Monitoring and managing pollution at scale poses substantial challenges. The inclusion of citizen science in pollution research is posited as a means to combat these challenges and reduce the burden on researchers. While research comparing citizen science to traditional data collection methods suggests that citizen collected data can be efficient and insightful, there is still considerable variability in protocols and quality. Here we examine the utility and quality of citizen science in the field of pollution research. We conducted a systematic literature review collecting all pollution focused citizen science research papers published between 2001 and 2021 globally, with 312 peer reviewed papers matching the selection criteria. We analysed (i) the response time for review of each article and the impact factor of the publication journal, (ii) the quality of research methods, (iii) limitations and controls reported within the study, (iv) scope and scale of the projects, (v) whether the study measured engagement with citizen scientist participants, and (vi) whether papers were supported or critiqued based on an analysis of the citing literature. We found increasing numbers of citizen science pollution studies over the past two decades and trends towards increasing quality and impact. While not all pollution research projects are amenable to citizen science approaches, the academic conversation around inclusion of these methods should avoid generalisation and might also might consider the potential additional benefits of the study for increasing environmental awareness and stewardship.