The Potential Role of School Citizen Science Programs in Infectious Disease Surveillance: A Critical Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jun 30;18(13):7019. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18137019.


Public involvement in science has allowed researchers to collect large-scale and real-time data and also engage citizens, so researchers are adopting citizen science (CS) in many areas. One promising appeal is student participation in CS school programs. In this literature review, we aimed to investigate which school CS programs exist in the areas of (applied) life sciences and if any projects target infectious disease surveillance. This review's objectives are to determine success factors in terms of data quality and student engagement. After a comprehensive search in biomedical and social databases, we found 23 projects. None of the projects found focused on infectious disease surveillance, and the majority centered around species biodiversity. While a few projects had issues with data quality, simplifying the protocol or allowing students to resubmit data made the data collected more usable. Overall, students at different educational levels and disciplines were able to collect usable data that was comparable to expert data and had positive learning experiences. In this review, we have identified limitations and gaps in reported CS school projects and provided recommendations for establishing future programs. This review shows the value of using CS in collaboration with traditional research techniques to advance future science and increasingly engage communities.

Keywords: citizen science; education; infectious diseases; life sciences; public health; schools; surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity
  • Citizen Science*
  • Communicable Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Schools
  • Students