"Community Science" vs "Citizen Science"

Definitely a lot of science facilitated using iNat though. The project itself as science (or rather, not) is addressed here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/what+is+it


Maybe it’s already been suggested, but I was thinking recently, since we talk about “crowdsourcing” things in many contexts, including IDs etc. on iNaturalist, how would “crowd science” work as a neutral, inclusive, and descriptive name?


Very good idea! I still like the term ‘amateur scientist’, but I guess the word amateur has the wrong connotation these days.


I sometimes use ‘hobby’ as a analog for ‘amateur’ as in ‘hobby naturalist’.

I also have used the term ‘avocation’ as a contrast to ‘vocation’ but mostly in regard to my hobbies other than naturing. But how about avocational naturalist?


I don’t consider myself to be any kind of naturalist but many of the contributors to iNaturalist are professional naturalists. The terms professional and vocational are not synonymous, and many amateurs have a strong vocation for their field of interest.

“Crowd science” seems a very appropriate term.



What a thread !

I came here in search of answers to what is “citizen science” (more on this in this new thread) and got swept into to the diverse arguments - points, counterpoints and maverick points.

I went back and checked the meaning ot Citizen (Merriam Webster Quoted here"

Definition of citizen

1**:** an inhabitant of a city or town especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman

2a**:** a member of a state

So the first and original meaning, if taken to heart, means all who consider themselves citizens scientists must / possible may belong to a city.

I make this point specifically because “villager” is a pejorative in many places (and my place too).

For some years, now, many people (i think across the world and here too) for various legal and political reasons have been resisting the inclusion of their village into a larger “town, or city, or municipal council” and are trying to reclaim the word “villager” (or its equivalent ) because being a city dweller is being equated with having a “better life” or being “smarter”.

For me, personally. till i came upon this thread had never really thought about “the Citizen” part of citizen science - but right now am inclined to start searching for a new word.

“Open Science was suggested and seems acceptable” mainly because of its probable “allusion” to “open source” - while quite aptly the “licensing” used in Inaturalist is drawn from the “open source movement” via Creative Commons licensing. But open science also because it allows anyone - without bias, without requiring to be a qualified expert tag to contribute to and benefit from the contributions of others.

One of the tags for CC is " Open access to knowledge" - while many factors hinder people being able to avail of and contribute to this open access knowledge atleast having a system that allows for it is in-itself a big achievement.

Community Science does not cover it all - again a lot has been said - my two bits are that community has many actors but sometimes communities tend to obscure individuals and their contributions (or vice versa) whereas Citizen (Open) Science acknowledges (or should acknowledge) the individual and the community both.

On yet another note - where in the world can one find a person “expert” in something and tag them to help id something (and then even request an explanation". Similarly where in the world can we find “experts” who readily share their knowledge and time and help absolutely novices and beginners along.

I think iNaturalist is one of the very few places in the “sciences”. (and as i say that probably will receive a tonne load of other such places - in which case Yes I have been living under a rock :-) - sort of )

I have more to say but will do so in this thread.

It’s one of the uses of “Leaderboards”. They give you a sense of who to contact, although remember that the ‘leader’ may not be completely expert in that taxon!

1 Like

What about “Public Science”? Implying that it’s not just scientists doing the sciencing, which seems to be the point of citizen science. Which, by the way, I have nothing against calling it, just throwing another suggestion out there.


Nice suggestion


To discuss this topic on an international forum, I think the perception of the non-native (English) speakers should also be considered, and I am interested to hear about experiences of other users here.

While I know the meaning of 'citizen', I was suspecting for many others it would not be so clear. So I asked some family members and friends: How would you translate ‘citizen’? - And almost all of them answered something urban-related (surely because they thought of ‘City’ :slightly_smiling_face:).
So I am suspecting many people think of ‘citizen science’ as something that is done by people in cities. In contrast, the meaning of community science is likely much better understood.

So, to recap, while in English speaking countries 'citizen' might have some political/legal connotations and 'community' might sound exclusive or localized, for an internationally used term I’d actually prefer 'community' - as it is easier to understand and is not so prone to misconceptions.
Edit: Public Science would work as well, I’d guess


Here many don’t like using citizen science (гражданская наука) as this word isn’t used widely and usually is found in comparison of military vs. citizen.


yeah, in Israel too, “citizen” (ezrakh) means “member of a nation”, or “civilian”, with much more formal connotations than the English/American version of the word. there, “community science” is more often used.


The last three comments are very interesting. I have long maintained that “Amateur scientist” (doing something for the love of it) is an old term that needs to be revisited, although it has a negative connotation in English. What do other languages/cultures interpret the word ‘Amateur’ to mean?


That’s actually very close to the word’s original meaning and the Americanized meaning where only people with the appropriate paperwork get to call themselves citizens is by no means universal in the English-speaking world. Uses like “good citizenship” are entirely rooted in the original meaning.

Citizen science was never meant to be a description. It’s a label that rolls off the tongue because of its alliteration and its rhythm and is therefore memorable. In truth, what is done on iNaturalist is not science either. The information may be used as data in some scientific analysis but it’s a learning exercise first and foremost. The whole name is a damned lie if you insist on being literal about things.

I don’t generally call it citizen science, mostly because I refrain from referring to anything as science if the scientific method isn’t involved. I like the name iNaturalist because it actually tells me pretty much exactly what the thing is, although when I see brand names that begin with a small i I always wonder if maybe it’s an Apple product, which I guess is doubly confusing because Apple neither makes nor sells apples. As I noted over in the topic that this one is followed by to iNat has become a verb and and other neologisms based on the name of this site are inevitable. So maybe let’s stop iNattering about citizen science (or whatever) and make up some new words based on iNaturalist.


or Xhosa. Cape Town is iKapa in Xhosa.


Amateur means lover of, as opposed to the professional who is paid to do it. So any negativity is in the eyes of the perceiver. Amateur is a good word! An enthusiast, not a working drudge ;~)


Indeed. Especially for those of us who have the academic qualifications of a scientist, but not the requisite institutional affiliation. We see firsthand how arbitrary the dividing line is.


I’ve been watching some of Adam Savage’s videos lately, and this one reminded me of this forum topic:
(I’ve made the link start at the relevant bit, but the whole video is pretty cool)

Can you share your presentation?

Ahem. Both terms apply. When, as an amateur naturalist, I use the site, I’m doing citizen science. All of us, together, are doing community science. So it’s a matter of whether you wish to refer to the activity of the individual or the enterprise as a whole.
These are my views as a professional editor, and apply to US English usage only.