Whitepaper on Co-evaluation of Citizen Social Science
This publication is based on the experiences collected over the course of 30 months while implementing participatory evaluation practices in the European funded research project CoAct. This citizen social science project’s primary goal was to address social concerns such as youth employment, mental healthcare, environmental justice and gender equality in the context of local citizen social science initiatives.
When people engage in scientific processes they are often personally affected by the research and its outcomes, such as patients reporting their Long Covid symptoms for health research, or residents contributing to the collection of biodiversity data in their neighbourhood. This is especially true in citizen social science, where participants actively contribute to investigating and finding solutions to challenges they face in their daily lives. This engagement, we are convinced, should be considered a possibility throughout the entirety of the research cycle, including research evaluation and impact assessment.
Particularly in such cases where people engage in research that affects their lifeworlds, they should be able to co-define the expected outcomes of the scientific process and reflect collectively how the fulfilment of these expectations could be tracked and measured. So why not describe in a participative manner how project developments could be measured against different interests, and define collaboratively what proof of success may look like? Such an evaluation and impact assessment is not left exclusively to scientists and professional evaluators, but actively includes all engaged actors of the scientific process as competent co-evaluators.
With this Whitepaper, we want to raise awareness for participatory approaches towards evaluation and impact assessment in citizen social science. The six co-evaluation principles that form the core of this paper are intended to guide the participatory approach to project evaluation and to sharpen the focus for impact assessment. While these principles have been developed in the context of citizen social science activities, we believe in their wider applicability for citizen science in other domains and participatory research in general.