Karin Dubsky

Coastwatch Europe

International Coordinator






Designing citizen science projects that capture the imagination

Abstract: Citizen science projects should provide a framework that captures people’s imagination and encourages wider thinking and scrutiny. My presentation will share examples from my work with Coastwatch Europe, where the personal interests and skills of citizen scientists have led to new ideas and discoveries. I will also delve into the question of what we are doing with the results collected as part of these projects.

“Informed public participation in environmental protection and management is essential. In this context, citizen science is a fantastic way of working towards our common goal of protecting our coasts and ocean.”

Brief curriculum vitae: Karin Dubsky is an experienced member of the environmental NGO community, post graduate scientist researcher, consultant and teacher. Karin works at the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering in Trinity College Dublin, and has practical scientific and basic legal expertise in water, biodiversity, waste, planning, public participation and access to justice issues. Karin has been involved in all aspects of citizen science across Europe, which commenced while still a student in a group seeking local engagement via news media, asking bathers to photograph and count sanitary materials and indicator markers on the shores of Dublin bay to identify sewage pollution patterns and use the evidence to campaign for full sewage treatment. After a number of other campaigns, Karin founded Coastwatch, which developed into Coastwatch Europe - a network of environmental groups and education institutions in 23 countries in the 1990s, producing marine litter data from >10 000 sites per annum for several years. Data was used to persuade Hi-cone to change plastic used in can six pack holders for Europe and in Ireland to help introduce the plastic bag tax. Coastwatch moved into more challenging biodiversity data citizen science and shift from paper to modern social media over the last decade. A new phase with citizen science around understanding and feeding into monitoring of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive has commenced. The Aarhus convention and its implementation underpins much of Karin’s citizen science work, especially in the coastal zone where public and authority rights of resource use and responsibilities are complex.

In citizen science Karin works with the following philosophy: informed public participation in environmental protection and management is essential; the ideal to strive for is that citizen science is a joint design and output process, giving rise to visible environmental and social results which are proudly shared and; if planning isn’t joint organic with citizens, but initiated by a research team as is typical in many new funded citizen science projects, one must ensure that benefits to participants and the use of citizen science information is adequately considered and delivered so citizens aren’t ‘used’.