"Community Science" vs "Citizen Science"

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.

I also like this, which I think subtly helps emphasize the “not locked behind a paywall” aspect of how we share information on iNat.

An amateur athlete, like an Olympian, may be regarded very highly. An amateur astronaut, like the guy who wanted to launch himself to prove the earth was flat, may not be. It’s not just the word amateur but also the word it’s paired with.


@kiwifergus - thank you I saw the whole video as i was not sure of the context. The section you indicate is on point.

An interesting article published two weeks ago on this very debate: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/372/6549/1386

It’s behind a paywall (the irony of an article about inclusivity in science being paywalled…), so here’s a PDF of it for anyone interested:


Im a Non-Citizen Scientist living Botswana and without citizenship of Botswana I am an alien. Perhaps I should call myself an Alien Scientist just as there are also alien species of plants and animals residing here.


Some of us don’t even have the “academic qualifications” and there is an even bigger chasm and a lot of, sorry to say, snootiness.

You really took it too personal, yes, I don’t agree with hiding some of the topics, not everything should lead to a change, sometimes people can say what they don’t like just for the sake of it and moderators can take a note and create separate topics, but even though posts are hidden it doesn’t mean iNat is not a community, like why would it change just because there’re some rules on the forum???


But hopefully not invasive.

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