Nature—and the exploration of it—is for everyone. That’s why the Academy is moving away from the term "citizen science" in favor of "community science" moving forward. Here's a statement from the Community Science team about the transition:
Since 2015, we have been called the Citizen Science department, but we recognize the exclusionary nature of the term “citizen.” While the field of citizen science largely uses “citizen” in the context of “citizen of the world,” impact is more important than intent: If even one person feels excluded from or hesitant about participating in our programs due to the language used, we believe we shouldn’t use that language. Our team collaborates with people and partner organizations to gather observational biodiversity data, translate those data into actionable science and management outcomes, and build community by working together. Citizenship has absolutely no bearing on whether folks can participate in the work we do, and we want the words we use to reflect that this work is inclusive of all people. Ultimately, we aim to make science more accessible for everyone, engaging communities to observe and connect with nature wherever they are. With our department’s name change, we aim to both more accurately reflect what we do—studying biodiversity through community-centered, grassroots organizing—and to move away from describing our work as “citizen science” and toward “community science.”
We want to stress, however, that the terms “citizen science” and “community science,” up until recently, have not been considered interchangeable. Community science is a term that has largely been used by the environmental justice field to describe a very particular type of citizen science—one where community members identify a problem, often affecting the health or well-being of their community, and then collect the data needed to show the impacts of this identified problem. As defined by Charles et al (2016), community science is research- and monitoring-driven and controlled by local communities, and is characterized by place-based knowledge, social learning, collective action, and empowerment, while “citizen science” is typically instituted not by a community, but by a researcher or team of researchers outside the community. So, by changing the name of what we do to “community science,” we acknowledge that we’re co-opting a term, and in doing so, making true community science less visible. We wish there was another inclusive term we could use to describe our work that connected us to similar programs and helped hold us all together in a community of practice, and hope that an agreed-upon umbrella term for the work we do will emerge from ongoing conversations happening in our field right now. Until then, we will use community science.
We also recognize that this change is aspirational. Community science is more collaborative, done together with and driven by community, working to address their concerns and answer their questions. We still have a lot to do to claim to be truly doing "community science." By changing the way we refer to what we do, we are also making a strong commitment to change the way we do our work.
—Rebecca Johnson, Alison Young, Annie Miller, and Gio Rapacciuolo