Using citizen science data to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (Centre of Expertise on Global Governance)

As part of the Humanity Hub’s second seasonal programming theme, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we will share insights by members of the Humanity Hub community and the Hague Peace & Justice ecosystem. This week, we are spotlighting a journal article on using citizen science data to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals, co-authored by Laura BalleriniThe Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), University of Oxford, and Sylvia BerghCentre of Expertise on Global GovernanceThe Hague University of Applied Sciences

Official data are not sufficient for monitoring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): they do not reach remote locations or marginalized populations and can be manipulated by governments. Citizen science data (CSD), defined as data that citizens voluntarily gather by employing a wide range of technologies and methodologies, could help to tackle these problems and ultimately improve SDG monitoring. 

While the literature has so far studied this issue from the point of view of the UN and national member states, this article gives voice to citizen science organizations, investigating the link between citizen science data and the SDGs from the bottom up. It finds that projects which use CSD recognize that the SDGs can provide a valuable framework and legitimacy, as well as attract funding, visibility, and partnerships. But, at the same time, the article reveals that these projects also encounter several barriers with respect to the SDGs: a widespread lack of knowledge of the SDGs, coupled with frustration and political resistance towards the UN, may deter these projects from linking their work to the SDG monitoring apparatus. To better engage citizen science projects, there is a need to mainstream the view that the SDGs and citizen science can benefit from each other. On the long and winding road of sustainable and inclusive development, citizen science initiatives can provide an invaluable contribution to SDG monitoring. But they can do so only if we truly make their voices count.