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The Impact of Citizen Environmental Science in the United States [ABSTRACT]

August 2020

Citation: ELR 10674

Author: George Wyeth, Lee 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, examines what makes citizen science initiatives impactful, as well as the barriers to greater impact, and specifically recommends that: (1) agencies take specific steps to encourage the use of citizen science; (2) citizen scientists learn from others’ successes; (3) air programs use citizen-generated data to address pollution in low-income and minority communities; (4) unnecessary legal barriers be removed; and (5) a centralized process for the validation of emerging technologies be implemented.

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