Citizen Science (Working Group)

  • CSWG Chair: Rob Grew (EA)
  • Secretariat Lead: Michael Pocock
  • Secretariat Support: Hannah Risser

Citizen science can broadly be defined as the involvement of volunteers in science. It has a vital role in scientific research and education, and the potential to help meet some of the challenging demands of environmental monitoring at the national scale. This gives citizen science a clear relevance to government policy across the UK, and puts citizen science firmly on the agenda for UKEOF.

The UKEOF Citizen Science Working Group aims to provide a forum where member organisations can share good practice and discuss future needs and plans for working with volunteers to provide high quality, environmental observation data.

As part of regular citizen science working group, members provide updates about their organisation' initiatives to inform the wider community of areas of work or planned events.

Cover of UKEOF report on the impacts of COVID-19 on environmental citizen science   Impacts of COVID-19 on environmental citizen science: Lessons learned and recommendations for the future - An analysis by UKEOF partners that explores how the response to Covid-19 has affected environmental citizen science in the UK.
Future of citizen science leaflet (front cover)   What is the Future of Citizen Science? What is UKEOF's Role? - To help identify future opportunities for UK governmental bodies to get involved with citizen science, the UKEOF Citizen Science Working Group (CSWG) held a workshop in October 2018 with representatives of UKEOF partners. It identified the broad opportunities that exist and also what it could do to help partners realise them. This briefing is for anyone with an interest in citizen science, especially those in government organisations in the UK.
Data management planning for citizen science (front cover)   Data Management Planning for Citizen Science  - This guidance note provides specific, practical advice to citizen science practitioners (specifically those involved in the planning, collection, storage or use of data) about the development of data management plans to support the value of datasets from citizen science projects. A good Data Management Plan – considering the whole lifecycle of data from its creation and storage to its use, publication and re-use – will add value to citizen science datasets and help them to have greatest possible use and impact.

Understanding Motivations for Citizen Science (2015-2016) - UKEOF commissioned The University of Reading to undertake a study to investigate people's motivations for citizen science.

Citizen science is widely acknowledged to have a potentially important role in delivering valuable environmental data at local to national scales. However, without an understanding of why and how people participate in citizen science, some initiatives could miss their mark and fail to provide the expected benefits. These social drivers of evidence-gathering by citizen scientists are often overlooked in favour of discussions around the need for and quality of the resulting data. UKEOF wants to balance this with an approach based on social science so that we can understand the personal needs, motivations, benefits and barriers which affect participation in citizen science, both in terms of the volunteers themselves and other involved parties such as the scientists, policymakers and data users.

In September 2015, UKEOF commissioned a study to investigate people's motivations for citizen science. This study aims to improve our understanding of motivation and participation in citizen science, so that new initiatives can be designed to take these factors into account, making them more likely to succeed and easier to evaluate. The contract was awarded to Hilary Geoghegan at the University of Reading, along with Alison Dyke, Sarah West and Rachel Pateman at the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York, and Glyn Everett at the University of West England.

Download full report and summary leaflet (summary leaflet also available in German)


Understanding Opportunities, Cost and Benefits of Citizen Science (2015-2016) - UKEOF commissioned WRc plc to undertake a study towards a methodology for evaluating opportunities, costs and benefits of citizen science.

The UK has a long history of volunteer monitoring in the environment which has tended to focus on schemes that supplement existing monitoring effort. More recently, as monitoring agencies face significant financial pressures, there has been an increasing interest in volunteer involvement across a wider range of monitoring activities, allowing employed staff to be deployed more flexibly, and citizens to participate in stewarding key aspects of their local environment.

Volunteer involvement can incur significant costs through design, IT support,recruiting, training and engaging with volunteers, and analysing data. However, in some cases, such engagement may be the most cost-effective option and provide an increased contribution to UK monitoring. However, despite evidence that volunteer monitoring can represent good value for money, presenting a financial case to secure necessary resources to support, recruit and engage volunteers remains difficult.

In October 2015, UKEOF commissioned this short study towards a methodology for evaluating opportunities, costs and benefits of citizen science. The study built on the understanding about how to identify and measure the costs and benefits of monitoring activities using volunteers. It explained the main principles involved, in a way which will be of practical use to the UK’s environmental protection, monitoring and conservation agencies.  The contract was awarded to  Anne Phillipe, Ralph Blaney, Andrew Davey, Sarah Clist all based  at WRc plc, along with Michael Pocock from Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Glyn Jones at FERA.

Download full report and summary leaflet

Guide to Citizen Science  

Guide to Citizen Science - UKEOF commissioned the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (working with the Natural History Museum) to carry out a project looking at the role of volunteers in environmental monitoring, resulting in a step-by-step , providing evidence-based advice on how to set up and run a successful citizen science project. The project also looked at lessons learnt from past citizen science projects; the best ways to encourage more researchers and volunteers to get involved; and the potential for using available and emerging technologies for data recording. The Guide is underpinned by a comprehensive report, Understanding Citizen Science and Environmental Monitoring.

This work was commissioned following two workshops on Citizen Science supported by UKEOF.

If you have used UKEOF's Guide to Citizen Science or the report, please help us monitor its impact by contacting the team on


Further information

Member organisations

  • NERC British Geological Survey (Patrick Bell)
  • UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (Jodey Peyton, Helen Roy)
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Kieran Hyder)
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jake Morris)
  • Environment Agency (Rob Grew)
  • Forestry Commission / Forest Research (Jake Morris)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (Julie Day, Anna Robinson)
  • Marine Biological Association (Jon Parr)
  • Met Office (Jake Brown)
  • Natural England (Andy Nisbet, Paul Hinds, Cheryl Willis)
  • Natural Resources Wales (Dylan Lloyd)
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Johan Schutten)
  • NatureScot - formerly Scottish Natural Heritage (Alan Cameron)
  • University of Reading (Hilary Geoghegan)

Terms of Reference

Citizen Science Working Group Terms of Reference (updated December 2016)

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