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The Impact of Citizen Environmental Science in the United States

March 2019

Citation: 49 ELR 10237

Issue: 3

Author: George Wyeth, LeRoy C. Paddock, Alison Parker, Robert L. Glicksman, and Jecoliah Williams

An increasingly sophisticated public, rapid changes in monitoring technology, the ability to process large volumes of data, and social media are increasing the capacity for members of the public and advocacy groups to gather, interpret, and exchange environmental data. This development has the potential to alter the government-centric approach to environmental governance; however, citizen science has had a mixed record in influencing government decisions and actions. This Article reviews the rapid changes that are going on in the field of citizen science and examines what makes citizen science initiatives impactful, as well as the barriers to greater impact. It reports on 10 case studies, and evaluates these to provide findings about the state of citizen science and recommendations on what might be done to increase its influence on environmental decisionmaking.

George Wyeth is a visiting scholar at the Environmental Law Institute. LeRoy C. Paddock is associate dean for environmental legal studies at the George Washington University Law School. Alison Parker is a researcher with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Robert L. Glicksman is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School. Jecoliah Williams is a third-year student at the George Washington University Law School.

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