Policy ForumCitizen Science

Citizen science, public policy

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Science  13 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 134-136
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8379

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Summary

Citizen science initiatives that support collaborations between researchers and the public are flourishing. As a result of this enhanced role of the public, citizen science demonstrates more diversity and flexibility than traditional science and can encompass efforts that have no institutional affiliation, are funded entirely by participants, or continuously or suddenly change their scientific aims. But these structural differences have regulatory implications that could undermine the integrity, safety, or participatory goals of particular citizen science projects. Thus far, citizen science appears to be addressing regulatory gaps and mismatches through voluntary actions of thoughtful and well-intentioned practitioners. But as citizen science continues to surge in popularity and increasingly engage divergent interests, vulnerable populations, and sensitive data, it is important to consider the long-term effectiveness of these private actions and whether public policies should be adjusted to complement or improve on them. Here, we focus on three policy domains that are relevant to most citizen science projects: intellectual property (IP), scientific integrity, and participant protections.