Fostering transformation through citizen science: The case of GROW Citizens’ Observatory

Raquel Ajates (Lead / Corresponding author), Mel Woods, Drew Hemment, Pavlos Georgiadis, Davie Philip

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper discusses the concept of Citizens’ Observatories as a platform to address complex environmental challenges by bringing together trans-disciplinary perspectives and different types of knowledge to identify and share potential solutions. Drawing on sustainable transition theories, we discuss the GROW Citizens’ Observatory’s (CO) socio-technical system and participatory design framework, which sets out values and a seven-stage process that fosters social learning and engagement, using a diverse range of approaches such as digital storytelling methods, MOOCs and data art.

The GROW system brings together social innovations and connections (from place-based interaction to online communities) and technologies and artifacts (such as sensors, satellites, mobile devices and apps). This operational CO system is focused on sensing soil, in particular soil moisture and its changing state, through the power of citizen science and open data. Soils sustain life, but are being rapidly degraded; soil moisture plays an important role in predicting extreme weather events, increasing due to climate change. Regenerating and monitoring soils at scale and longitudinally can help us predict, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Essential to the success of such endeavours is bridging 1) knowledge domains, such as soil and climate science and growers’ knowledge, 2) geographical scales such as the global with hyperlocal, and 3) stakeholder groups such as citizens, scientists and policy-makers. This integrated approach helps overcome silos and trigger synergistic data innovations to ensure that citizen-generated datasets are useful and useable by communities themselves, and to achieve the transformations needed in science, policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2019
EventTransformations 2019: Learning from Transformative Action and Thinking - University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
Duration: 16 Oct 201918 Oct 2019


ConferenceTransformations 2019
Internet address


  • GROW Citizen's Observatory
  • Citizen science
  • Environmental monitoring


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