Empowering Citizens to Inform Decision-Making as a Way Forward to Support Invasive Alien Species Policy

Groom Quentin
Strubbe Diederik
Adriaens Tim
Davis Amy J. S.
Desmet Peter
Oldoni Damiano
Reyserhove Lien
Roy Helen E.
Vanderhoeven Sonia
Observations reported by citizens are crucial to the ability of scientists to inform policy on biodiversity. This is particularly relevant in the case of preventing and controlling biological invasions; that is, the introduction and spread of species outside their natural ranges as a consequence of human activity. Such invasions of natural ecosystems represent one of the main threats to biodiversity, economy, and human well-being globally, and policies on tackling this issue require a strong evidence base that increasingly is built on citizen science. Many citizens are motivated to collect data for their own interest, while presumably, few expect to make a major impact on policy. The needs of policy-makers are not always aligned with the approaches used by citizens to collect and share data. Therefore, how can we motivate citizen science for the needs of policy without compromising the enjoyment that citizens gain from collecting biodiversity observations? How can policy-makers support citizens to collect the data they need? Solutions require two components, a combination of social and technological innovation. Initiatives aimed at supporting decision-making processes should involve more societal actors and be built in a more collaborative or even co-created manner with citizens, scientists, and policy-makers. Technological solutions can be achieved through regular, rapid, and open publication of biodiversity data products. We envisage frequent publication of maps and indicators from rapidly mobilized data, with clear pointers to gaps in knowledge. Improving the links between data collection and delivery of policy-relevant information demonstrates – to citizens and their organizations – the need for their data, and gives them a clear view on the impact of their data on policy. This visibility also empowers stakeholder organizations in the policy development process.
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Citizen Science: Theory and Practice
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