Citizen Science

By Tom Wakeford

Citizen science, as defined in the book People’s Knowledge (Practical Action, 2016), is a form of research covering a spectrum of levels of people’s involvement, from merely contributing to research wholly organized by professional scientists on the one hand, to people being in charge of forming the questions that are asked, how they are answered and what is done with them (sometimes called participatory action research) on the other. This post on, Thinking Critically about Citizen Science, offers some reflections on the different political underpinnings of different approaches to citizen science.

This curated reading list is intended to be a starting point and should be read in conjunction with the glossary in People’s Knowledge. There are also relevant chapters in our recent e-book Everyday Experts (CAWR, 2017).

General references

Bowers, C. A. (2004). How the ideas of Paulo Freire contribute to the cultural roots of the ecological crisis. In Bowers C. A. (ed). Re-Thinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis, p.131.

Colston, N., Vadjunec, J., and Wakeford, T. (2015) . Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 17:66-71.

Cornish H et al. 2017 Rethinking Research Partnerships: Discussion Guide and Toolkit.  Download from:

Fisher, F. (2005). Are Scientists Irrational? In M. Leach, I. Scoones, & B. Wynne (Eds.), Science and citizens: globalization and the challenge of engagement (p. 295). Zed Books.

Flicker, S., O’Campo, P., Monchalin, R., Thistle, J., Worthington, C., Masching, R., … & Thomas, C. (2015). Research done in “a good way”: the importance of indigenous elder involvement in HIV community-based research. American journal of public health, 105(6), 1149-1154.

Irwin, A. (2015). Citizen Science and Scientific Citizenship: Same Words Different Meanings? In B. Schiele, J. L. Marec, & P. Baranger (Eds.), Science Communication Today: Current Strategies and Means of Action (pp. 29-38). Nancy Université.

Long, J.; H.L. Ballard; L. Fisher and J. Belsky. (2015). Questions that won’t go away in participatory action research. Society and Natural Resources: An International Journal 29 (2): 250-263.

People’s Knowledge Editorial Collective with paintings from Haiti by Michel Lafleur (2016) The original citizen scientists. In People’s Knowledge Editorial Collective (Ed) People’s Knowledge and Participatory Action Research Escaping the white-walled labyrinth. Practical Action, Rugby.

Scholz, R. W. (2000). Mutual learning as a basic principle of transdisciplinarity. Transdisciplinarity: Joint problem-solving among science, technology and society. Workbook II: Mutual learning sessions, 13-17.

Vasavi, A R 2013 Citizen kisan. Seminar 641, January.

Advanced reading

Anderson, W. (1994). Excremental colonialism: public health and the poetics of pollution. Critical inquiry, 21(3), 640-669. University of Chicago Press.

Eitzel, M.V. et al., (2017). Citizen Science Terminology Matters: Exploring Key Terms. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 2(1), p.1.

McQuillan D (2017). Data Science as Machinic Neoplatonism. Philos. Technol.

Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples (2nd edition). Zed Books Ltd. (Download 1st edition from:


The Citizen Science Association is a US-based membership organisation with its own journal.

The European Living Knowledge Network is composed of persons active in, or supportive of, citizen science and similar initiatives.


This reading list has been created by the People’s Knowledge Editorial Collective. Please send comments and suggestions to us here.