Biodiv Sci ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (6): 738-749.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.12113

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Citizen science: integrating scientific research, ecological conservation and public participation

Jian Zhang1,*(), Shengbin Chen2, Bin Chen3, Yanjun Du3, Xiaolei Huang4, Xubin Pan5, Qiang Zhang6   

  1. 1 Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2H1
    2 Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Nanjing 210042
    3 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093
    4 Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    5 Institute of Plant Quarantine, Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine, Beijing 100029
    6 Guangdong Entomological Institute, Guangzhou 510260
  • Received:2013-05-09 Accepted:2013-09-03 Online:2013-11-20 Published:2013-12-02
  • Contact: Zhang Jian


Citizen science, also known as “public participation in scientific research”, is defined as scientific activities in which non-professional scientists participate as volunteers in data collection, analysis and dissemination within a scientific project. With the advent of the information age, citizen science projects, especially in ecological conservation and environmental monitoring, are rapidly expanding our knowledge of the world around us, and contributing to management and policy decisions. Citizen science projects can be classified into five types of models: contractual, contributory, collaborative, co-created and collegial projects. In China, public participation in science related activities has had a long history, but current contributions in citizen science are limited because of relatively low public participation, and the weaknesses in data quality control, data management and analysis. Recently, citizen science has been applied to bird watching and plant monitoring, with some positive and negative experiences. To better increase citizen science activities and enhance such contributions to academic research, improvements are urgently required in financial support, the development of project platforms, the application of new technology, and international collaboration. We believe that the enhancement of citizen science will greatly promote the development of ecological conservation, environmental monitoring and related research fields. To help with this we have established a platform for China citizen science projects ( to promote communication and cooperation among scientists, governments, other organizations and the public.

Key words: citizen science, environmental conservation, conservation biology, biodiversity, environmental monitoring, bird watching, plant monitoring