Law and Policy Resources

Whether you’re a researcher, community member, lawyer, student or business owner, the resources provided here are foreveryone involved in and/or interested in citizen science and policy. Through these resources, we hope to broaden your understanding of how citizen science can influence law and policy and vice versa. Listed below are key resources curated by CSA’s Law and Policy Working Group of broad relevance and applicability. 

Citizen science legal framework

John Holdren, Addressing Societal and Scientific Challenges through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act (Public Law 114-329) 

Understanding citizen science & policy

Eleta, I., Galdon Clavell, G., Righi, V. and Balestrini, M., 2019. The Promise of Participation and Decision-Making Power in Citizen Science. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, 4(1), p.8. 

National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy. Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection. (2018). 

Hecker, S., Haklay, M., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J. & Bonn, A. CitizenScience: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. London(2018).

National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). Environmental Protection Belongs to the Public: A Vision for Citizen Science at EPA. (2016). 

McElfish J & Pendergrass J. Clearing the Path: Citizen Science & Public Decision Making (2016).

Smith, B. Agency Liability Stemming from Citizen-Generated Data. Woodrow Wilson Center Policy Memo Series vol. 3. (2014)

Schade, S., Manzoni-Brusati, M., Tsinaraki, C., Kotsev, A., Fullerton, K., Sgnaolin, R., Spinelli, F. and Mitton, I., Using new data sources for policymaking, EUR 28940 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2017. 

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Right to Science in Practice: Exemplars of Government Action.

Tools for the citizen science community

Harvard Law School Citizen Science Manual

EPA Data Quality Assurance Handbook

Federal Crowdsourcing & Citizen Science Toolkit.

Federal Crowdsourcing & Citizen Science Catalog.

Data Policies for Public Participation in Scientific Research: A Primer. DataONE. (2014) 

Environmental Law Institute. A Citizen’s Guide to Using Federal Environmental Laws to Secure Environmental Justice (2002).

Scientist & Community Engagement – https://tinyurl.com/citsci-training &- https://thrivingearthexchange.org/

Academic research & case studies

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into how citizen science can influence policy or how policy shapes citizen science efforts, please use the link below to access our library of research articles and case studies. https://tinyurl.com/citsci-resources

This list of resources was last updated by CSA’s Law and Policy Working Group in 2019.


Ask and legal question responses

The Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School volunteered its students in 2019-2020 to answer questions from the CSA community about relevant laws and policies raised by citizen science projects. Below you will find responses to select questions submitted through a portal managed by the CSA’s Law and Policy Working Group.

1. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Citizen Science (Nov. 2019).

2. Legal Issues with Automatic Trail Cameras (Nov. 2019)

3. Legal Issues with Photography by Kites and Balloons (Nov. 2019).

4. Tort Claims against Citizen Scientists (Feb. 2020).

5. Quality Assurance Project Plans (Feb. 2020).

6. Defamation Claims against Citizen Scientists (Feb. 2020).

The answers above are provided for educational purposes only. Clinic students are not practicing attorneys. By answering questions, Clinic students are not providing legal advice, acting as your attorney, or serving as a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Their answers to submitted questions do not create an attorney-client relationship or a commitment to answer additional questions. Communications between individuals using the question submission form and the Clinic’s students are not protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. Readers should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.

CSA and CSA’s Law & Policy Working Group cannot provide legal advice or any kind of advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms or strategies.