10 Citizen science

Citizen science is about engaging community experts to participate in science-based activities, for example in the context of biosecurity. Activities involve communication, detection and reporting of pests, weeds and diseases and monitoring. Typically, community experts are government officers, scientists, retirees, tradespeople, and representatives from conservation, Landcare and wildlife groups.

Engaging members of the community to participate in biosecurity surveillance can provide a significant contribution to the early detection of pests and diseases. CEBRA found that the use of ‘Science Cafes’, discussion forums aimed at engaging the general public, were a potentially useful way of engagement, as community members were already interested in and enthusiastic about volunteering in biosecurity detection.104

CEBRA investigated the value of community surveillance (also known as passive surveillance) in the management of invasive species. Available data was complemented by simulation and estimations showed a $52 return per $1 invested into community engagement. The return in investment was measured as the savings in active surveillance caused by the presence of passive surveillance. Another aspect of this project looked at the likelihood of members detecting a new or emerging pest or disease and influencing factors.105,106 The Department deemed some of the project outputs beneficial for states and territories for their emergency response coordination efforts.


104. Chazal, J. de. (2008). Biosecurity: Improving detection by enlisting community detectives. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 0802.

105. Cacho, O., Reeve, I., Tramell, J. & Hester, S. (2012). Valuing community engagement in biosecurity surveillance. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1004B ID7.

106. Hester, S. & Garner, G. (2013). Post-border surveillance techniques: Review, synthesis and deployment, Phase 2 synthesis. Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis, report 1004B ID8.