Skip to main content

Authors: Usue Lorenz & Reidun Norvoll

Handbook of Youth Social Citizen Science (Borgström, D., Canto-Farachala, P., Hagen, A. L., Norvoll, R., Rådmark, L. & Lorenzen, S.B. (Eds.). (2024). Handbook of Youth Citizen Social Science. Working with Young People and the Local Community for Social Change. Zenodo.

The Definition, Dimensions and Possible Outcomes of Impact

Defining impact and the entangling of its different meanings and approaches require a first insight of how we understand impact in youth citizen social science. In YouCount, we used the following impact definition:

Impact are “all the changes that are expected to happen due to project activities”, acknowledging that, ”they can occur over different timescales, affect different types of actors, and different dimensions” (Network4Society, 2020).

According to this definition, the impact objectives of youth citizen social science projects should reflect the expected changes resulting from the research activities to be undertaken. These objectives are intricately linked to the unique characteristics of each project, making them highly context-dependent. By reflecting on the following aspects of impact, we can refine and align the impact objectives of our youth citizen social science project with its distinctive contextual features and multidimensional nature:

  • Distinguish time frames

Very often discussion about impact objectives mix in the same pot the expected impacts of different scales. But short-term (within the project lifespan), medium-term (within 5–10 years of the project start) and long-term (after 10 years) impacts need to be distinguished. Otherwise, the research team might be committed to impossible futures, generating internal tensions and frustrations among participants.

  • Connect the impact objectives with the target group

The objectives need to have a clear view of which people or situations are affected by research. For example in YouCount we analysed the effects of the research in three main groups: the young citizen scientists, the stakeholders and the researchers.

  • Open up for multi-dimensional impact objectives

What are the changes or transformations that one could expect when doing youth citizen social science? The impacts of youth citizen social science ventures are multi-dimensional, manifesting across scientific, participant, and societal dimensions. In YouCount ( Lorenz et al., 2023), we explored and several effects within these dimensions. They are however not exhaustive, leaving room for consideration of additional impacts.


The scientific impact dimension comprises the effects that research is producing in the academia due to an enhanced science-society collaboration such as:

  • The co-creation of new knowledge with participants such as young people and stakeholders through their participation in research activities.
  • New methods for science education, communication and public engagement.
  • Structural organisational changes in research organisations.

The participant impact dimension examines the effects that research has over the participants, such as:

  • Science literacy and educational outcomes in terms of improved cognitive competences (knowing) about youth citizen social science and the subject of study.
  • Skills for an increased capability to do youth citizen social science (functional competencies).
  • Changes in attitudes and behaviours (social competences) gained in the research process.

Other social outcomes related with the subject of research, such as:

  • Increased opportunities linked with the subject of research (i.e.: increased opportunities for social inclusion, employability).
  • Strengthening of social networks.
  • Increased social capital.
  • Increased citizen engagement.

The socio-ecological and economic dimension captures the changes in the wider environment beyond the individual level, such as:

  • An increased policy engagement with science and citizens’ active participation in research and decision making.
  • New social innovations, informed policymaking and governance and policy recommendations.

The impact dimensions and categories mentioned above, reflect possible interesting outcomes to look for in youth citizen social science projects. The following are examples of concrete impact outcomes found in the YouCount project in some of these dimensions and categories.

Knowledge was co-created by and with young participants and they collaborated in delivering the scientific results of the project (such as publications and books). Youth citizen social science co-developed new knowledge pertinent to social issues affecting younger demographics engaged in the citizen social science project.

Participants were empowered through their engagement in citizen social science activities. They enhanced their understanding of citizen social science, improving their proficiency in tasks related to youth citizen social science, and improved their ability to interact within their social environments.

Impact assessment into youth citizen social science practice

In YouCount, we crafted our own way of assessing impact, specifically designed to align with the unique research approach of youth citizen social science. This approach took into account the various research tasks and methods carried out throughout the project. As we mentioned earlier, youth citizen social science involves transdisciplinarity, which means that tackling a problem requires the involvement of different skills, contributing to the solution within its real-world context. Because collaborative knowledge production in this setting can get messy and unpredictable, it might lead to impacts that weren’t initially planned for or not considered within the initial impact objectives. Drawing from our experience in assessing impact in YouCount, we’ve identified some principles that can guide the development of a tailored impact assessment approach for youth citizen social science projects.

Principles for assessing impact:

  • Be welcoming to unexpected discoveries:
    Encourage the exploration of unplanned findings that may emerge during collaborative research, going beyond the initial impact objectives.
  • Be inclusive and engage different perspectives:
    Ensure the project includes the perspectives and contributions of all stakeholders, including the young citizen scientists, involved in the research process, facilitating a comprehensive representation of varied viewpoints.
  • Manage a balanced workload:
    It’s crucial to design impact assessment tasks that seamlessly integrate with, rather than clash with, the ongoing research tasks. Set up an agile and adaptable process that is efficient, flexible, and can adapt to changing circumstances.

Tools for impact assessment in youth citizen social science

The impact assessment framework used by YouCount blends a variety of tools, integrating conventional ones such as logic models (as proposed in models like the Payback Model by Donovan and Hanney (2011), the co-produced pathway to impact by Phippset al., (2016), or the six guiding principles for a consolidated Citizen Science Impact Assessment Framework by Wehn et al., (2021) with additional tools designed to uncover unexpected outcomes that may arise from collaborative research. We, therefore, propose considering a mix of tools that can help uncover the unplanned outcomes in youth citizen social science. The tools used in YouCount include:

  1. Logic Models:
    These models serve as a valuable tool by systematically linking research activities with their associated benefits. They aid in connecting planned work, allocated resources, and undertaken activities (inputs) to the ultimate outcomes and impact, providing a structured framework for understanding project progression and its broader effects.
  1. Data Processing and Collection Tool:
    An efficient tool for processing and collecting data plays a crucial role by:
    • Displaying both qualitative and quantitative impact-relevant data.
    • Organising data according to the key elements of the logic model (inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impact), facilitating a clear understanding of the project’s progression (including the discovery of new and unforeseen outcomes).
  1. Process Design for Assessing Emergent Outcomes:
    Crafting a structured process to assess outcomes stemming from collaborative research interactions and negotiations is essential. This process should capture diverse experiences within research through methodologies such as storytelling, focus groups, and joint reflections. Measuring impact often feels like an imposed task with conflicting deadlines that compete with ongoing research activities.



Göbel, C., Mauermeister, S. & Henke, J. (2022). Citizen Social Science in Germany – cooperation beyond invited and uninvited participation. Humanit Soc Sci Commun. 9 (193).

Lorenz, U., Norvoll, R., García, I., Franco, S., Canto, P., Saumer, M., & Matthes, J. (2023). D4.4 Report on impact assessment of YouCount. Zenodo.

Kieslinger, B., Schäfer, T., Heigl, F., Dörler, D., Richter, A., & Bonn, A. (2018). Evaluating citizen science: Towards an open framework. In A. Bonn, S. Hecker, M. Haklay, A. Bowser, Z. Makuch, & J. Vogel (Eds.), Citizen Science: Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy (pp. 81–96). UCL Press.

Schaefer, T., Kieslinger, B., Brandt, M., & van den Bogaert, V. (2021). Evaluation in citizen science: the art of tracing a moving target. In, The science of citizen science, 495.

Wehn, U., Gharesifard, M., Ceccaroni, L., Joyce, H., Ajates, R., Woods, S., & Wheatland, J. (2021). Impact assessment of Citizen Science: state of the art and guiding principles for a consolidated approach. ability Science, 1-17.

User Type
  • Citizen scientist/civil society organization
  • Researcher/research institution
  • Teacher/school
Resource type
  • Getting started
  • Projects/project examples
  • Step by step guides
Research Field
  • Political sciences
  • Sociology