Research Topic

Citizen Science: Reducing Risk and Building Resilience to Natural Hazards

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Natural hazards are becoming increasingly common within the context of climate change; reducing risk and building resilience against these hazards is crucial. An emerging shift has been noted from broad-scale, top-down assessments towards more participatory, community-based, bottom-up approaches. Rapidly ...

Natural hazards are becoming increasingly common within the context of climate change; reducing risk and building resilience against these hazards is crucial. An emerging shift has been noted from broad-scale, top-down assessments towards more participatory, community-based, bottom-up approaches. Rapidly developing information and communication technologies such as the Internet, smartphones and social media have already demonstrated their sizeable potential to make knowledge creation more multidirectional, decentralized, diverse and inclusive. Combined with technologies for robust and low-cost sensor networks, a citizen science approach has recently emerged as a promising direction in the provision of extensive, real-time information for risk management (as well as improving data provision in data-scarce regions). It can serve as a means of educating and empowering communities and stakeholders that are bypassed by more traditional knowledge generation processes.

In this Research Topic, we analyze how the concept of citizen science has been interpreted in many different ways to reduce risk against hazards that are (i) water-related (i.e. floods, hurricanes, drought, landslides); (ii) deep-earth-related (i.e. earthquakes and volcanoes); and (iii) responding to global environmental change such as sea-level rise. Reconciling such disparate interpretations remains a key challenge. They might involve using non-scientists as sensors (i.e. participatory monitoring) in data-poor areas; conducting semi-structured interviews; developing apps and social media to report on the aftermath of a disaster in real-time; deep-level community engagement from project definition to data dissemination; or a combination of these. We interrogate the particular failures and successes of natural hazards-related citizen science projects, operating on many different scales with different groups of non-scientists, across the globe. The objective is to understand what constitutes “best practice” in a citizen science context, allowing a framework to be drawn up regarding participation and knowledge co-generation, for a set of different situations and natural hazards.

Image copyright by Topic Editor Dr Jonathan D. Paul


Keywords: Citizen science, participatory monitoring, natural hazards, flooding, earthquakes, volcanoes, climate change, resilience building, risk reduction, bottom-up


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