Meaningful participation of schools in scientific research through contributory citizen science projects

Osnat Atias, Yael Kali, Ayelet Shavit, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


School-based citizen science offers a way for students and teachers to collaborate with scientists and take part in multiple facets of research such as data collection and analysis, and sometimes research initiation, co-design, and reporting of findings. However, most citizen science projects offered to schools are of the contributory type, often regarded as a lesser form of participation since the role of nonscientific participants lies mostly in data collection. The current study set out to examine the potential of contributory projects to afford—despite their limitations—more equitable power relations between schools and scientists and a meaningful participation of schools in scientific research. We view meaningful participation as such that embodies students' and teachers' responsibility over scientific processes or outcomes. Nine pairs of teachers and scientists who collaborated in contributory-based projects were asked to think aloud as they answered a questionnaire regarding their experiences, resulting with rich commentary on how they perceived relationships between the schools and the scientists. Analysis of the think-aloud data, using a framework based on the notion of reciprocity in university-community partnerships, indicated that most teachers and scientists developed a sense of reciprocal relations where both sides are acknowledged contributors, some even deeply so. We discuss factors influencing the emergence of reciprocity and implications towards the premise of school-based citizen science to democratize science and change traditional power relations in school-based citizen science collaborations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1192
Number of pages30
JournalScience Education
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Science Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • contributory citizen science
  • democratization of science
  • school-based citizen science
  • teacher-scientist partnerships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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