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A quick call with Margaret Gold about citizen science

April is the month of showers and tulip fields but did you know that it is also Global Citizen Science Month? And the future of our Leiden citizen science community looks rosy, says coordinator Margaret Gold. She is happy to come and tell you all about this − and to exchange knowledge and ideas. ‘See it as a kind of citizen science roadshow!’

Margaret Gold

Hi Margaret, our Leiden citizen science community has had some brilliant news. What was it?

‘We have! We heard this month that the national Citizen Science Netherlands network has received a 1.1 million euro grant from Open Science NL. For the Dutch citizen science community, this means more networking events, knowledge-sharing opportunities and initiatives to co-develop good practices. Lots of Leiden staff helped set up this network and will continue to help lead it, so you can imagine how proud we are of this achievement. It is fantastic to see the network buzzing with activity. Our future is looking rosy.’

If we take a step back for a moment: What exactly is citizen science and what makes it so valuable?

‘Citizen science means that citizens actively participate in scientific research. And that doesn’t just mean filling in a questionnaire or being the research subject: you really participate as a co-researcher. For instance, by looking for undiscovered archaeological heritage, helping count bees or spotting black holes. As a research approach, citizen science can therefore be of value in many different ways. Some projects would not otherwise be possible, for example, because you lack certain data or insights from society. With other projects, it’s the old adage of “many hands make light work”. And sometimes it’s just great fun!’

You are the coordinator of the Citizen Science Lab. How does your lab support our researchers?

‘In all kinds of ways! The lab provides support, advice, training and more. Perhaps you are already working on a great research project and feel that help or knowledge from society could be a valuable addition. Or perhaps you want to integrate citizen science into a course you teach. We can tell you about the first steps you can take. And we can help you apply for citizen science grants.’

What would you like to achieve with the Citizen Science Lab?

‘Our ultimate goal is that citizen science as a research approach becomes a permanent fixture in our regular research and teaching. That also fits in well with Academia in Motion. With this university-wide programme, we are working towards a university culture where open science and collaboration are central to our work. Close ties with society are integral to this. As a university we don’t want to be next to but in the middle of society. There are an awful lot of pressing issues that we can tackle together. It would be great if such initiatives could receive more attention and support.’

Is it true that you are happy to visit colleagues who want to find out more about citizen science?

‘Definitely! I see it as a kind of citizen science roadshow. You can always approach me for a workshop, lecture or lunchtime talk. I’m happy to stop by to exchange knowledge and ideas and to talk about great examples of citizen science in Leiden – or to hear what projects you are working on at the moment: we also learn from this.’

Are there other ways to get involved?

‘We also have our own Teams environment for citizen science at Leiden University. I regularly share great examples or interesting literature, but you can obviously talk to other colleagues there too. It really is meant as a community of practice. You don’t have to be working on any citizen science projects to join. You’re welcome even if you’re just curious.'

Want to find out more about − or get started with − citizen science? Send your questions and ideas to Margaret. You can also join the Leiden University Teams citizen science group and the Citizen Science-NL group on LinkedIn.

A quick call with

There is never a dull moment within Leiden University. The websites are filled with news on a daily basis. In 'A quick call with' we ask one of our employees to tell us more about a relevant and current topic. 

Text: Evelien Flink
Banner picture: Monique Shaw

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