Citizen Science's Influence on Public Policy for Addressing Complexity: A Systematic Review of Tech-Based Projects in Higher Education

Berenice Alfaro-Ponce, Jorge Sanabria-Z, Luis Francisco Rivero-Zambrano, Cristopher Antonio Muñoz-Ibáñez


Citizen science’s (CS) deployment and benefit over the last ten years have been remarkably substantial in their contributions to the massification of citizen participation in tech-based CS projects. Insights into how CS projects influence community changes through proposals of actions and public policies are essential to understanding how they facilitate citizens' advocacy in decision-making at various ecosystem levels. To this end, we conducted a systematic literature review of tech-based CS projects published between 2017 and 2022, in which the participation of the tertiary education sector played a central role. We used a guideline that education plays a fundamental role in developing technology-based CS projects. The more educational processes, such as incorporating activities that strengthen complex thinking in citizens, the greater their involvement in decision-making to propose public policies that address their current problems. Findings suggested that a) there is significant involvement of the educational system with CS; b) CS projects do not comply with the innovation helixes; c) tech-based CS projects usually indirectly develop competencies and sub-competencies of complex thinking, and d) social actions are clearly articulated through these competencies and sub-competencies that determine the complete cycle of tech-based CS projects, which result in organized actions or public policies. To sum up, this study serves as a call for long-term co-design projects that consider both the individual development of the participants and the integral impact on decision-making at all levels.


Citizen science, higher education, educational innovation, tech-based, complex thinking, public policies

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