Tools and Methods

Tools and Methods

Cool tools and methods for Citizen Science projects


For most of us, citizen science makes us think of crowdsourcing; a voluntary activity by a large, unsolicited group of people (the crowd) who  contribute information, ideas or services, usually via the internet.

In projects applied to disaster risk reduction (usually mapping the aftermath of hazardous events) these type of initiative are also sometimes  referred to as VGI (Volunteered Geographic Information).

Here are a few examples of research using crowdsourcing for disaster risk reduction:

  1. The European Handbook of Crowdsourced Geographic Information
  2. From social media to GeoSocial Intelligence: Crowdsourcing Civic Co-management for flood response in Jakarta, Indonesia
  3. Crowdsourced data for flood hydrology: Feedback from recent citizen science projects in Argentina, France and New Zealand



Other citizen science initiatives (including crowdsourcing) make use of low-cost sensors to enable the public to monitor and collect observational and other sensory data about their environments.

Here are a few examples of research using low-cost sensors as a citizen science tool for disaster risk reduction:

1. Citizen science for hydrological risk reduction and resilience building

2. Raspberry Shake (citizen seismometer using Raspberry Pi)

3. The Community Seismic Network (a network of 500 low-cost microelectromechanical accelerometers in Los Angeles).


Participatory techniques

While citizen science itself could be classified as participatory scientific research, here we recognise participatory research techniques as a separate series of methods and tools to support a process of empowering communities to reduce their risk.

Here are a few examples of research using participatory methods as a citizen science tool for disaster risk reduction:

  1. Maximising Multi-Stakeholder Participation in Government and Community Volcanic Hazard Management Programs; A Case Study from Savo, Solomon Islands
  2. Participatory methods of incorporating scientific with traditional knowledge for volcanic hazard management on Ambae Island, Vanuatu



Narratives are not normally associated with citizen science, yet narrative is the process through which which we encode and transmit information. We see several roles which narrative can play in relation to citizen science:

  • As a data source from which information can be extracted
  • As a data object e.g. for bonding and social connection (social capital)
  • As a tool for communication e.g. story-telling
  • As a resource to challenge dominant narratives
  • As a tool to evaluate a project or intervention

Here are some examples from the research literature of the use of narrative in relation to citizen science:

  1. Risk communication films: Process, product and potential for improving preparedness and behaviour change
  2. The power of narrative in post-disaster entrepreneurial response
  3. Narratives as a mode of research evaluation in citizen science: understanding broader science communication impacts
  4. Narratives as a means to create bonding social capital at community level during recovery (post-Katrina in the USA).