Water science is not an obvious discipline for the use of citizen science – the participation of non-professional scientists in research projects – because many measurements are highly complex and technologically demanding. Yet non-scientist local stakeholders have always played an important role in managing risk, and building resilience against, natural disasters such as flooding and droughts. In the article, we show that citizen science projects work best when there is community buy-in, when their purposes are clearly defined at the outset, and when the motivations and skillsets of all participants and stakeholders are well understood. They can serve as a means of educating and empowering communities and stakeholders that are bypassed by more traditional data collection practices, as well as enhancing fresh ways of thinking in the way local communities adapt and protect against potential future water-related disasters.
We argue that the active involvement of citizen scientists across the entire lifecycle of a research project (rather than solely during the data collection phase) enhances local project interest and increases the ability of communities to take important decisions concerning collective responses to e.g. flooding. If some technical and communication challenges can be overcome, it may be an efficient way to enhance the culture of hazard risk and make communities more collectively engaged. Combined with rapid technological development over the past 10–15 years (e.g. the ubiquity of small, low-cost sensors and smartphones), we demonstrate that citizen science effectively bridges gaps between the more theoretical aspects of science and the knowledge that is adopted by non-scientist stakeholders.
The full article, which has been published in WIRES Water, can be found here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wat2.1262/full