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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Citizen Science as Democratic Innovation That Renews Environmental Monitoring and Assessment for the Sustainable Development Goals in Rural Areas

Alarcon Ferrari, Cristian; Jonsson, Mari; Gebreyohannis Gebrehiwot, Solomon; Chiwona-Karltun, Linley; Mark-Herbert, Cecilia; Manuschevich, Daniela; Powell, Neil; Do, Thao; Bishop, Kevin; Hilding-Rydevik, Tuija


This commentary focuses on analyzing the potential of citizen science to address legitimacy issues in the knowledge base used to guide transformative governance in the context of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (henceforth SDGs). The commentary develops two interrelated arguments for better understanding the limits of what we term "traditional" Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (EMA) as well as the potential of citizen science (CS) for strengthening the legitimacy of EMA in the local implementation of SDGs. We start by arguing that there is an urgent need for a profound renewal of traditional EMA to better implement the SDGs. Then, we present CS as a democratic innovation that provides a path to EMA renewal that incorporates, develops, and extends the role of CS in data production and use by EMA. The commentary substantiates such arguments based on current approaches to CS and traditional EMA. From this starting point, we theorize the potential of CS as a democratic innovation that can repurpose EMA as a tool for the implementation of the SDGs. With a focus on the implementation of SDG15 (Life on Land) in local contexts, the commentary presents CS as a democratic innovation for legitimate transformative governance that can affect socio-ecological transitions. We see this approach as especially appropriate to analyze the implementation of SDGs in rural settings where a specific resource nexus can create conflict-laden contexts with much potential for a renewed EMA to support transformative governance towards Agenda 2030.


citizen science; democratic innovation; Environmental Monitoring and Assessment; Sustainable Development Goals; forests; legitimacy; transformative governance

Published in

2021, Volume: 13, number: 5, article number: 2762
Publisher: MDPI