Research Topic

Citizen Science and Social Innovation: Mutual Relations, Barriers, Needs, and Development Factors

About this Research Topic

Social innovations are usually understood as new ideas, initiatives, or solutions that make it possible to meet the challenges of societies in fields such as social security, education, employment, culture, health, environment, housing, and economic development (Vinals & Rodriguez, 2013). On the one hand, many citizen science activities serve to achieve scientific as well as social and educational goals. Thus, these actions are opening an arena for introducing social innovations. On the other hand, some social innovations are further developed, adapted, or altered after the involvement of scientist-supervised citizens (laypeople or volunteers) in research and with the use of the citizen science tools and methods such as action research, crowdsourcing, and community-based participatory research. Such approaches are increasingly recognized as crucial for gathering data, addressing community needs, and creating engagement and cooperation between citizens and professional scientists. However, there are also various barriers to both citizen science and social innovation. For example, management, quality and protection of data, funding difficulties, non-recognition of citizens’ contributions, and limited inclusion of innovative research approaches in public policies.

In this Research Topic, we want to open theoretical as well as empirically-based discussion, including examples, practices, and case studies of at least three types of relations between citizen science and social innovation: (1) domination of the citizen science features over social innovation aspects; (2) domination of the social innovation features over the citizen science aspects; and (3) the ways to achieve balance and integration between the social innovation and citizen science features. Each of these relationships highlights factors that influence the development of the main scales of sustainability of innovations in the practice. These innovations are contributing to a new paradigm of learning and sharing knowledge as well as interactions and socio-psychological development of participants. Also, there are factors that influence the development of platforms, ecosystems, and sustainability of innovations such as broad use of the information and communications technologies (ICTs) including robotics and automation; emerging healthcare and health promotion models; advancements in the development and governance of smart, green, inclusive and age-friendly cities and communities; new online learning centers; agri-food, cohousing or mobility platforms; and engagement of citizens into co-creation or co-production of services delivered by public, private, non-governmental (NGOs) organizations as well as non-formal entities.

In this Research Topic, we welcome papers critically evaluating the existing social innovations and citizen science initiatives, introducing new ideas, products, services, schemes or models, research methods, and comparative studies. The Research Topic welcomes papers that will provide both theoretical and/or empirical findings. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

• Mutual relations of citizen science and social innovation.
• Dynamics of peer learning and organizational culture in citizen science and social innovation initiatives and projects.
• The personal capacity of social entrepreneurs, public managers, citizen scientists, and researchers.
• Reciprocity of public and scientific interventions in marginalized communities and peripheral areas.
• Intrinsic rewards, sense-making, stress tolerance, risk-taking, (social) responsibility, ethics, accountability, and autonomy.
• Inclusion and influence of citizen science and social innovation in public policies.
• Research methods related to citizen science and social innovation (e.g., pooling of resources, collective intelligence, data gathering, participatory experiments, serious games, grassroots activities, hardware and software development).
• Design, evaluation, communication, and dissemination of results of the citizen science and social innovation initiatives.
• Governance, management, and multilevel and multisectoral approaches to citizen science and social innovation.
• Strategies for transferability and scaling of social innovations and citizen science projects.
• Digital social innovation and citizen science, usage of big data analytics, ICT solutions, and smart solutions.
• Social networking, resource seeking, human and social capitals identification, gender, age, self, and social identity.
• Cross-cultural, inter-cultural, and trans-cultural issues of citizen science and social innovation.
• Qualitative or quantitative studies focusing on co-creation and co-production processes and their outcomes and impact for citizens and stakeholders.
• Case studies and good practices summarizing lessons learned from co-creation and co-production processes.
• Diversity of participation in citizen science and social innovation, the relationships of citizens with practitioners and professionals.
• New forms of evaluation, communication, and dissemination of results fostered by the pervasiveness of technology and digital media.
• The openness of the citizen science and social innovation initiatives at various stages of the research or intervention cycle.

We welcome researchers from areas such as sociology, psychology, pedagogy, educational sciences, public policy, economics, management, public health, communication, computer science, environmental science, urban science, and geography. Reviews and papers on philosophical and ethical issues are also welcome.

This Research Topic is inspired by editors’ involvement in the COST Action CA15212 “Citizen Science to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe,” supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology).


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Social innovations are usually understood as new ideas, initiatives, or solutions that make it possible to meet the challenges of societies in fields such as social security, education, employment, culture, health, environment, housing, and economic development (Vinals & Rodriguez, 2013). On the one hand, many citizen science activities serve to achieve scientific as well as social and educational goals. Thus, these actions are opening an arena for introducing social innovations. On the other hand, some social innovations are further developed, adapted, or altered after the involvement of scientist-supervised citizens (laypeople or volunteers) in research and with the use of the citizen science tools and methods such as action research, crowdsourcing, and community-based participatory research. Such approaches are increasingly recognized as crucial for gathering data, addressing community needs, and creating engagement and cooperation between citizens and professional scientists. However, there are also various barriers to both citizen science and social innovation. For example, management, quality and protection of data, funding difficulties, non-recognition of citizens’ contributions, and limited inclusion of innovative research approaches in public policies.

In this Research Topic, we want to open theoretical as well as empirically-based discussion, including examples, practices, and case studies of at least three types of relations between citizen science and social innovation: (1) domination of the citizen science features over social innovation aspects; (2) domination of the social innovation features over the citizen science aspects; and (3) the ways to achieve balance and integration between the social innovation and citizen science features. Each of these relationships highlights factors that influence the development of the main scales of sustainability of innovations in the practice. These innovations are contributing to a new paradigm of learning and sharing knowledge as well as interactions and socio-psychological development of participants. Also, there are factors that influence the development of platforms, ecosystems, and sustainability of innovations such as broad use of the information and communications technologies (ICTs) including robotics and automation; emerging healthcare and health promotion models; advancements in the development and governance of smart, green, inclusive and age-friendly cities and communities; new online learning centers; agri-food, cohousing or mobility platforms; and engagement of citizens into co-creation or co-production of services delivered by public, private, non-governmental (NGOs) organizations as well as non-formal entities.

In this Research Topic, we welcome papers critically evaluating the existing social innovations and citizen science initiatives, introducing new ideas, products, services, schemes or models, research methods, and comparative studies. The Research Topic welcomes papers that will provide both theoretical and/or empirical findings. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

• Mutual relations of citizen science and social innovation.
• Dynamics of peer learning and organizational culture in citizen science and social innovation initiatives and projects.
• The personal capacity of social entrepreneurs, public managers, citizen scientists, and researchers.
• Reciprocity of public and scientific interventions in marginalized communities and peripheral areas.
• Intrinsic rewards, sense-making, stress tolerance, risk-taking, (social) responsibility, ethics, accountability, and autonomy.
• Inclusion and influence of citizen science and social innovation in public policies.
• Research methods related to citizen science and social innovation (e.g., pooling of resources, collective intelligence, data gathering, participatory experiments, serious games, grassroots activities, hardware and software development).
• Design, evaluation, communication, and dissemination of results of the citizen science and social innovation initiatives.
• Governance, management, and multilevel and multisectoral approaches to citizen science and social innovation.
• Strategies for transferability and scaling of social innovations and citizen science projects.
• Digital social innovation and citizen science, usage of big data analytics, ICT solutions, and smart solutions.
• Social networking, resource seeking, human and social capitals identification, gender, age, self, and social identity.
• Cross-cultural, inter-cultural, and trans-cultural issues of citizen science and social innovation.
• Qualitative or quantitative studies focusing on co-creation and co-production processes and their outcomes and impact for citizens and stakeholders.
• Case studies and good practices summarizing lessons learned from co-creation and co-production processes.
• Diversity of participation in citizen science and social innovation, the relationships of citizens with practitioners and professionals.
• New forms of evaluation, communication, and dissemination of results fostered by the pervasiveness of technology and digital media.
• The openness of the citizen science and social innovation initiatives at various stages of the research or intervention cycle.

We welcome researchers from areas such as sociology, psychology, pedagogy, educational sciences, public policy, economics, management, public health, communication, computer science, environmental science, urban science, and geography. Reviews and papers on philosophical and ethical issues are also welcome.

This Research Topic is inspired by editors’ involvement in the COST Action CA15212 “Citizen Science to promote creativity, scientific literacy, and innovation throughout Europe,” supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology).


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Abstract
15 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 August 2020 Abstract
15 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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