Citizen Science (CS) is defined as scientific work undertaken by members of the general public in collaboration with professional scientists . Volunteers are commonly utilised for data collection but can also be involved with the interpretation of data, initiating research questions, project design and dissemination of results . Thus, CS can encompass a wide range of activities with varying degrees of involvement, engagement and citizen empowerment. CS has large potential to help meet some of the needs of environmental monitoring at a variety of geographic and temporal scales. There is, however, a need to better understand the potential for citizen scientists to become more involved in such programmes .
The British Geological Survey recognises the benefits of CS and aims to improve and expand its activities in this field. Currently there are few examples of CS projects with a primary focus in Geology or Paleo-Earth Sciences ,. Thus, there is the potential to improve existing projects and devise novel approaches which will have global applicability. This doctoral research will perform CS case studies which focus on geo-hazards (e.g. landslides, ground-water flooding). Such hazards are diverse and have a wide range of spatial and temporal scales . The detection, monitoring and understanding of many of these may be significantly enhanced by the addition of citizen contributions in support of traditional techniques.
Engaging greater numbers of citizen scientists increases the potential for better spatial and temporal coverage and may lead to serendipitous knowledge discovery . However, significant inequalities are found in participants  both in terms of their diversity (gender, age, ethnicity, education) and in the fact that a small number of participants contribute the majority of activity. Greater understanding of the recruitment, motivation and retention of citizen scientists is required  and drives a research need to capture more structured information about the citizen scientists . Improved understanding of the citizen scientists will enhance both engagement and the confidence which may be placed in the quality of contributors’ inputs. A novel aspect of this research will be the evaluation of participation through social-psychological determinants of engagement with environmental issues. An understanding of these determinants could aid the development of CS projects and strategies which are able to diminish feelings of remoteness from environmental issues, potentially leading to increased participation, action and policy support .
This research will aim to promote engagement amongst individuals (those who currently do and don’t participate) and seek to establish communities of volunteers (real and ‘virtual’) who share beliefs and work collectively towards a common goal . Developing a sense of community and connectedness may lead to increased value from CS projects , empowerment for both citizens and scientists and new project management insights . The potential of collective efficacy (mutual trust combined with a willingness to act on behalf of the common good ) arising from the formation of CS communities will be explored.
This project will add to knowledge of best-practice in the fields of citizen engagement and environmental collective efficacy. These will be applicable across a range of CS disciplines.
This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/L015463/1) and British Geological Survey.