How Can We Do Citizen Science Better? A Case Study Evaluating Grizzly Bear Citizen Science Using Principles of Good Practice in Alberta, Canada

Animals (Basel). 2022 Apr 20;12(9):1068. doi: 10.3390/ani12091068.


Citizen science offers an excellent opportunity to engage the public in scientific data collection, educational opportunities, and applied management. However, the practicalities of developing and implementing citizen science programming are often more complex than considered. Some challenges to effective citizen science include scientists' skepticism about the ability of public participants to rigorously collect quality data; a lack of clarity on or confidence in the utility of data; scientists' hesitancy in engaging the public in projects; limited financial commitments; and challenges associated with the temporal and geographic scales of projects. To address these challenges, and provide a foundation upon which practitioners, scientists, and the public can credibly engage in citizen science, the Government of Alberta developed a set of citizen science principles. These principles offer a framework for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating citizen science projects that extend beyond Alberta. Here, we present a case study using these principles to evaluate GrizzTracker, a citizen science program developed to help inform provincial species-at-risk recovery efforts. While we found that GrizzTracker applied each of the six principles in some way, including successful public engagement, strengthened relationships, and raising public awareness about northwest Alberta's grizzly bears, we also identified a number of challenges. These included ongoing skepticism from the traditional scientific community about the utility of citizen science and governance challenges related to program leadership, staff capacity, and funding. By using the principles as a guideline, we provide policy recommendations for future citizen science efforts, including considerations for program design, implementation, and evaluation.

Keywords: citizen science; conservation; evaluation; government; grizzly bear; principles.

Publication types

  • Case Reports