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Citizen Science Zurich

Making skills acquired through Citizen Science projects visible

Recommendations to increase the added value of a project

Anyone who participates in a Citizen Science project acquires new skills. This article explains why it is important to provide participants with documentation or certificates of these skills and how such proof of competence can look like.

What is your previous experience with Citizen Science projects - regardless of whether you were involved in the role of project leader, as a researcher or as a citizen: Was it clearly communicated in these projects which skills were required for participation? Was it clear which and how many skills were acquired by participating in the project? Did those involved in the project receive documentation or confirmation of the skills acquired through their participation? If not, then you are not the only one.

The acquisition of skills in projects is rarely discussed

Together with Schweiz forscht we (by the time still as PWA) held the workshop "The potential of making competences acquired through Citizen Science visible" at the Austrian Citizen Science Conference in June 2022. The workshop showed that the acquisition of competencies in Citizen Science projects is rarely discussed. And this despite the fact that there are countless good reasons why it is important to show the skills acquired and what citizen scientists have learned.

Good reasons for documenting competencies

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Skills are acquired in Citizen Science in the same way as in other (voluntary) social engagement.


The training of citizens should be seen and used as an important development opportunity within a project that offers additional added value. The same applies to academic researchers.


Proof of voluntary social commitment is increasingly relevant for job applications. For this reason, it is generally advisable to provide volunteers with proof of their commitment.


If possible, everyone involved in the project should know and be able to name the skills they have acquired. For academic researchers, it is worth thinking not only about technical and methodological skills, but also about other areas such as social and communication skills, as these are precisely the areas where a large part of the skills acquisition takes place in Citizen Science projects.


The area of individual development of people is often neglected as an (additional) impact of Citizen Science projects. If all participants know what skills they have acquired, the impact of Citizen Science is generally increased.


By recording the participants and their commitment, project leaders not only have the necessary transparency and the opportunity to evaluate their projects appropriately, but also important indications of the overall value of their project.

Seven recommendations

The recommendations for making the skills acquired in Citizen Science projects visible are based on the above-mentioned workshop and have been developed in collaboration with Schweiz forscht and the workshop participants. Depending on the recommendation, we have also created examples and templates especially for our community, which can be downloaded and edited! The recommendations cannot be implemented to the same extent in all Citizen Science projects. However, they provide an overview of existing possibilities and address the experiences, opportunities, challenges and best practices discussed at the workshop.

Recommendation 1: Issue a reference

Ideally, certificates are specific and individual - related to the project, the participant's activities, but also to aspects that are valued by potential employers. However, as the creation of such certificates is time-consuming in projects with a large number of participants, a more general confirmation of participation may be sufficient if personnel resources are limited.

Recommendation 2: Assess together

In the best case, evidence is developed together in a debriefing or group reflection. This can also take place as part of a project evaluation. An exchange helps participants to become aware of the skills they have acquired or strengthened. Above all, however, this avoids reproducing an employer-employee logic.

Recommendation 3: Provide course certificates

No template? No problem! You can download and edit our template here! Depending on the project, these can also be other formats such as "passports" or "stamp cards" to visualize participation in several events. Ideally, participants should be informed at the start of the project that their participation can be documented with appropriate proof.

Recommendation 4: Pay attention to balance

To illustrate what such certificates or certificates of participation can look like, we have created four fictitious examples. Curious to know what contribution Baran Bürgerin, Cinthia Citizen, Pinar Partizipativ and Valon Volunteer have made to various projects? In addition to four examples, we have also created a template for you to download and edit.

Recommendation 5: Include self-reflection

Self-reflection makes it possible to reflect on the acquisition of skills and knowledge and to provide feedback. It can take place both as part of feedback loops during the project and as part of a project debriefing. A short self-assessment at the beginning of the project can also be used to make a statement about the impact of the project on participants' skills and knowledge at the end of the project! Ideally, participants should be informed at the start of the project that the skills they have acquired can be documented with a corresponding certificate.

Recommendation 6: Search for inspiration

Take inspiration or advice from other areas where volunteering is a tradition! In Switzerland, Benevol is the umbrella organization for volunteering, in Germany it is the Federal Association of Volunteer Agencies (BAGFA).

Recommendation 7: Think about researchers

It is not only citizen scientists who acquire skills in Citizen Science projects - academic researchers do too! The increase in skills is particularly significant in the areas of personal skills, social skills and communication skills. But Citizen Science also sharpens methodological skills such as interdisciplinary understanding or data visualization. Therefore, when carrying out self-assessments and self-reflections, please consider all those involved in the project.

All recommendations at a glance

Text: Olivia Höhener
Illustrations: Ursina Roffler

Based on the article: "The potential of making competences acquired through Citizen Science visible" (Olivia Höhener from Citizen Science Zurich and Tiina Stämpfli from Schweiz forscht)

Weiterführende Informationen

Templates for proof of competence

More about Templates for proof of competence

The templates mentioned in the text can be downloaded here.

Paper: The potential of making competences acquired through Citizen Science visible

More about Paper: The potential of making competences acquired through Citizen Science visible

The article reflects on the skills acquired in Citizen Science and their visibility. It is based on a workshop at the Austrian Citizen Science Conference in June 2022, which showed that the acquisition of skills in Citizen Science projects is rarely discussed at project level, neither in relation to citizen scientists nor to academic scientists.

The recommendations were drawn up in collaboration with Schweiz forscht.