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Authors: 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.

Designing a Youth-Friendly Project

The participant group plays a crucial role in the design and management of any youth citizen social science project. Previous chapters have underscored the significance of considering young people’s age, life circumstances, perspectives, and pace, along with effective engagement strategies. For instance, within the YouCount project, several local cases highlighted that an EU initiative might appear somewhat “dry” and “top-down” to young individuals. Consequently, research teams invested time and effort into discovering ways to effectively engage young people and local stakeholders, fostering bottom-up processes. This necessitates the development of specific strategies, as well as the allocation of resources and time to cultivate trust, interest, and relationships with young participants. A youth-friendly project must also address the requirements for enabling or empowering youths to participate in project activities. This may involve providing travel support (such as tickets or assistance) or digital and technological equipment, particularly for young people with disabilities. In projects involving a diverse group of

young people, it is also essential to take cultural considerations into account, including religious observances, like dietary preferences. Moreover, when planning project activities, it is crucial to consider young people’s life contexts. While it may be convenient for project leaders to schedule meetings based on researchers’ availability, young citizen scientists often have school or work commitments, necessitating scheduling meetings outside regular working hours. Additionally, holiday periods vary across countries and must be considered when planning project timelines. It is not only when you have the meeting that is important for building a youth-friendly and inclusive project, but also their duration, location, and format, whether formal or informal, in-person or online. As previously discussed, within YouCount, both young citizen scientists and researchers emphasised the significance of informal gatherings, playfulness and enjoyment. Incorporating creative activities that encourage social interaction, teamwork, or travel can enhance the project’s appeal to young participants. The format of meetings also influences inclusivity. For instance, the Hungarian case team found that online meetings, where the hard of hearing youths could easily lip-read, facilitated their participation and inclusion. Providing technical assistance and ensuring that participants’ faces were visible during physical meetings were also important considerations (Mihók et al., 2023). In other instances, facilitating translation services and offering English language support were necessary to accommodate youths less accustomed to English-language meetings (D.1.5: Murray et al., 2023). It is also prudent to consider tasks that are youth-friendly and consult with the young citizen scientists about their preferred involvement. Some cases in YouCount found it necessary to avoid formal, tedious, or lengthy tasks to sustain youths’engagement. Involving youths in budgetary issues or formal ethical approval processes could also be daunting. Achieving a balance between voluntariness and responsibility in researchers’ expectations of participating youths is crucial and will depend on individual preferences, social contexts, and the youths’ age. Lastly, designing a project for young people should acknowledge that becoming a citizen scientist is a gradual process. As youths gain confidence and experience as co-researchers, they can take on more significant roles and tasks (Lorenz et al., 2023). In YouCount, participants who remained involved for extended periods evolved their perspectives and experiences as young citizen scientists. Over time, they developed a deeper understanding of the project, cultivated a stronger sense of ownership over the research objectives, and felt more integrated into the research team ( Saumer et al., 2023).

Planning and Managing your Project

Develop a Vision and Goal

As previously mentioned, a successful co-creative project requires a well-defined scientific vision with clearly articulated goals or objectives developed collaboratively with participants from the project’s outset. It is imperative to involve youths and local stakeholders as extensively as possible, starting from the proposal phase. Well-defined research objectives and questions facilitate the selection of an appropriate methodological framework and simplify the evaluation process. However, co-creative and exploratory projects also demand adaptability and a flexible research design that evolves in response to input and a deeper understanding of the research issue.

Chose Participants, Place and Levels of Participation

When designing the project. in previous chapters, when designing the project it is also key to consider which young citizens, age group, and stakeholders that should be involved to realise the project, and which levels and forms of participation that should be used. Moreover, which place do we want to do the project, for example in the local community or school-setting?? The best choices will depend on the kind of project you will do, the scientific goals and what will benefit knowledge generation or the practical aspects and need for resources. For example, the kind of project will influence the prioritisation of scientific research vs social change, the choice of place will impact the need for resources to travel, and the choice of age- span the research tasks due to legal regulations.

Participation can be designed in processual ways and the degree of participation can vary during the project period depending on what is going on in the individual youth life. It is also possible to build a network of interested young people who can take part in different tasks and for different time periods or using combinations of high and lower levels of participation. For example, in the YouCount project, we combined participation of young people in the research teams during the whole research process with a larger group of young people in the community participating in more limited “contributory” roles where they only took part in living lab meetings, dialogue forums or contributed observations in the YouCount .In reality, fewer youths participated from the beginning to the end in the three year long project, the length and degree of participation were also much more nuanced than we planned for. Retrospectively we can see that such circulation is quite normal as there is so much going on in young people’s lives. A long-lasting project therefore needs to plan for constant recruitment and training processes during the life span of theproject. Further, as described, it may be easy to use co- creation as a “buzz- word” because it looks good in some policy settings or research funding programmes. But, co- creation don’t come easy. Real co- creation needs a thoroughly planned process that enables the youths to partake in the designing and decision processes together with the professional researchers (e.g., D.1.5: Murray et al., 2023; Senabre Hidalgo et al., 2021). It is also essential to have a substantial group of young citizen scientists involved because the size will influence their possibilities of having a say or capability to influence the research processes. There are several ways to organise for an inclusive youth citizen social science project (Paleco et al., 2021; Varga et al., 2023). One option is to specifically target the youth population or unrepresented community. Another option is to mix groups of young people from community and university settings. The latter can support the bridging of education in and outside school settings or contribute to social inclusion by strengthening social networks and social capital. In YouCount, the project used both approaches.

First, it included a mix of different youth groups from the university and community setting. Then, some of the cases chose to target a special group of young people (for example, refugees) through stakeholder organisations or NGOs (D. 4.4: Lorenz et al., 2023; 3.2: Pataki et al., 2023B).

As mentioned, inclusive and co- creative citizen social science can be demanding in practice. It is therefore important to have a critical analysis of what kind and level of participation that is actually possible to achieve and then adjust to a realistic level along the way to avoid frustration and overload.

Where to Start?

The tradition and culture for using participatory citizen science differ in and among the European countries (Vohland et al., 2021) and these differences need to be taken into account when designing and running a citizen social science project. For example, the YouCount cases experienced that if you need to start from scratch, it is particularly important to build a research team with competences in this way of working and to plan for a more intensive and longer engagement process. The participants will need more time to learn and understand how citizen social science can be relevant and used in their settings. It is also important to pick the best and easiest place to start as the researchers may need to follow up closely. Where are the interested stakeholders? Can you start with some participants you already know? Look for one designated person on the local level who can serve as gatekeeper or connector in the community and to the youths. Sometimes you must be prepared for the need of finding another place if the first community engagement failed. It is also vital to understand and include the stakeholder’s role and local setting and to incorporate the circumstantial needs in the planning to succeed. This gap requires a translation of citizen social science to the local setting.

Time Awareness

Time and time awareness is crucial when you are designing and running an inclusive co- creative citizen social project. For how long time will the project run? Is it short- or long term? Will you integrate this project in a longer commitment? The time schedule will depend on the resources available and what will serve the project’s goal. Time management is found to be a common challenge in citizen science projects (Locke et al., 2019). Time challenges may also occur in co- creative citizen social science where you have many complex processes and coordination tasks which need to be planned and handled along the way. You will therefore often need firm management and a plan B to mitigate serious delays. Time is also found to be an important part of inclusive science. For example, when having hard of hearing, the youths may need longer time to listen and speak, meaning that the dialogue goes slower (Mihók et al., 2023,). Too fast conversation or abruptions of the researcher in group discussions can be experienced as offensive and exclusive.The pace can impact on the power relations in the group. The importance of speed may also apply to participants groups with other issues or who are not native speakers.

Time awareness and providing enough time is thereby important when designing a project for inclusive citizen social science. This is also an important ethics aspect contributing to responsive and caring science.

Resources and Infrastructure

While visions and research objectives are key for a citizen social science project, the material aspects (such as resources, infrastructures, documentation and equipment) should not go unnoticed (Meyer, 2021). Allocating necessary resources and infrastructures are important ingredients of a successful and feasible project. The larger the project, the more need for stable structures and staffing to avoid extra coordination work.

A co- creative citizen social science project also demands a sufficient travel budget for researchers and the young citizen scientists due to the collaborative and local work. The development and use of digital devices or channels for documenting and disseminating the project may be costly and need workforce resources. The project will also need sufficient resources, staff competencies and infrastructure for science communication, public engagement and science literacy activities as core aspects of participatory communication in citizen social science (Canto Farachala et al., 2023). The strong focus on communication activities in a citizen social science project may be unusual for researchers coming from “traditional” social science, and therefore easy to overlook. As mentioned, co- creative processes are often work-intensive. What you do between meetings, such as following up and maintaining stakeholder relationships, are important to avoid losing stakeholders on the way. Co-creation thus includes much “zero -point research”, referring to all the trust building and relational work and more that you need to have in place before you can even start the research project. This zero-point work is important to acknowledge when setting up and allocating resources to a co-creative project, not least when conducting research with communities often further away from science.

There is also a need for building a good structure and resources for training and support to the young citizen scientists and stakeholders involved and for providing necessary incentives or rewards to keep them engaged. Good infrastructures for data collection in terms of procedures (e.g., a data management plan) and resources for data collection (such as equipment, language translation and transcripts), data storage and analysis are also needed to secure knowledge generation and scientific quality are also crucial for a smooth project process.


Managing a citizen social science project resonates with good project management in general but will need to adapt to the special characteristics of co- creative research. Transparency and fairness in management of the project is crucial for trust in many project teams. Further, as seen from the many examples through this handbook, the YouCount project has demonstrated that co-creative youth citizen social science requires balancing firm leadership and structure with necessary flexibility to adapt to the needs of young people and the local community, and to adjust the level of involvement to match the available resources. This adaptability is based in a responsive and democratic management style that is willing to respond to the research processes and be open to inputs from participants. Still, there is a need to balance this flexibility with a firm steering to ensure necessary progress, manage expectations and demands, and to avoid too many open and democratic processes as these may be exhausting for the team. As found in the You- Count project, co-creation should be used, but not be expected for every minor detail (Saumer et al., 2023). Otherwise, it may be experienced as “the tyranny of participation” (ibid:28.).
Co-creative projects may also lead to relational and facilitation fatigue because of its collaborative, relational and interactive nature. Hence, it is important to be mindful of the need to rest, vary tasks, use less demanding methods, and to re-energise along the way. It may also be helpful to incorporate a network of support and mentoring for the project leader and team.

Building a Team and Working Together

A good team and strong team identity is crucial when conducting hands-on youth citizen social science. One of the first tasks is therefore to assemble the core team (being professional researchers and young citizen scientists) and to outline project goals and needs (Locke et al., 2019). It is also important to think carefully about how to put the team together, be the best number of team members, the skills and capacities for researchers, and furthermore: the balance between professional researchers and youths and interplay between seniors and juniors and between community youths and students. A good team in co- creative youth citizen social science often requires researchers that have good competence in working with young people and in doing practical hands-on research together with experienced researchers and a goal-minded project leader. Another important learning in the YouCount project is that you need to find designated youth person(s) in the team but not rely too much on one or a few experts or enthusiasts as this can create a vulnerability in the project. What happens with the project if that person quits? You need enough dedicated people to build a robust team. When the team is appointed, there is a need to establish a good working culture as this is crucial for having a nice atmosphere in the project and for smooth working processes. The project leader and work package leaders will have a key role in setting core values and working style for the project. A gender sensitive balance is also important, since it can influence the research process and its outcomes. A good team is focused on the importance of goal achievements, at the same time being respectful and supportive towards each other, as well as responsible and responsive, to avoid unnecessary workload for the other team members. In the YouCount project, we also learned that it is important not only to share successes but also disappointments and situations where things didn’t go well. Such situations are part of everyday life in scientific work. Being open about these aspects of research was also important for creating safety for the young citizen scientists who were not experienced in conducting research. The team culture should also focus on taking good care of the participating youths and junior researchers, building support systems on all levels of the project and securing necessary safety, support and guidance along the way. Further, as mentioned above, successful co- working is characterised by clear division of the tasks and to find good meeting formats. Physical in- person often work best in local settings because there are more opportunities for socialising and interactive discussions.

Still, this can be combined with hybrid/online meetings. It is important to plan for flexible meetings as many participants are busy. Still, regular meetings and a fixed meeting time (e.g., every second week) to ensure stability in the work and progress. A fixed time also makes it easier for the researchers and participants to plan the activities. Short digital meetings between in person meetings and workshops may also be useful. It is also important to balance formal and informal meeting styles for the participating youths. Formal aspects can contribute to taking the project more seriously. Still, informal meetings or moments during the meeting may comprise important moments of trust and relationship building and knowledge generation and make it easier for the youths to be engaged and to feel safe (D.1.5: Murray et al., 2023). Youths need to feel good to be productive and motivated. Sometimes it also helps that youth are explaining to youth what the project is about.

Roles and Responsibilities

After defining the project’s ground, it is time to establish roles and responsibilities. Managing expectations and demands is an important part of youth citizen social science. Clear roles and responsibilities are crucial for empowerment, being able to take on the role of a young citizen scientist and to conduct the research tasks in a safe way. It is also important to plan from the beginning which of the researchers is facilitating what, such as taking care of youth, engaging and supporting them. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities also requires a gender sensitive approach. Defining the role and responsibilities for young citizen scientists may be more challenging in community-based citizen social science compared to for example citizen science in school- settings conducted in collaboration with teachers because you work outside or across traditional institutional structures and settings. The YouCount project also showed that citizen social science can challenge the ordinary role of researcher by sometimes making the researcher feel that they are a mix of being a teacher, a family member, or a friend. They had to navigate between broader and more varied role dimensions at the same time keeping the research goals in mind. It can also take some time to find a good role. As mentioned, an important task is to decide on the role and responsibilities of the citizen scientists, and to discuss with the youths what their participation and role will consist of and how they prefer to participate. This can be done in person in terms of a pre-meeting and/or combined with an informed consent letter before they decide to participate or not. It is also vital to be transparent about their role and the long- term aspect of the project (if participating from the start to the end) and transparent upon what kind of framework is being predefined by researchers, and what is left open for youth to be developed throughout the study.

Legal Requirements and Ethics

Legal and ethical requirements (such as recruitment and consent procedures, data processing and storage procedures) is also a key aspect when designing and running a youth citizen social science. As previously described, citizen social science implies social data.Such data are often of more personal nature and consequently with stricter ethics approval procedures and GDPR requirements. There are also stricter regulations for research involving minors and young people with disadvantages as they may be in a more vulnerable and dependent situation.

In YouCount, which is an EU project involving partners from different countries, we also experienced that the national regulations when it comes to research, age limits, and procedures for seeking ethics and data protection approvals could vary between the countries. It was therefore important to get an early overview of requirements and apply as soon as possible to avoid delays in the project. The larger the project, the more complicated procedures, and legal agreements. Potential legal issues may also vary by jurisdiction and need to be clarified with a legal expert. A joint responsibility agreement for data procession between partners can be useful to clearly address responsibilities between partners. The experiences from the YouCount project also show that using digital devices in a citizen social science project involving minors may result in a request for a Data Protection Impact assessment (DPIA) from the supervisory authorities. The DPIA process often takes time and can delay the data collection period (Canto-Farachala et al., 2023). In the project we also learned that the use of open citizen social science devices such as the YouCount App is less common, and that the supervisory authorities may be unsure about how to assess them. We therefore found it useful to include an IT expert or to establish a local assessment team (including legal adviser, data protection and ethics experts and IT experts) at the university to support the data protection and ethics considerations and formal approval processes. Legal and ethics requirements related to travel with minors and young people to ensure safe travels and activities may also need to be taken into account.  When conducting citizen social science, the whole team including the young citizen scientists will therefore need to learn basic principles for conducting the research in an ethically sound way and according to the GDPR. Ethics is therefore incorporated in the training courses and adapted to the age group. Further, as professional researchers, it is crucial being careful not to put the young citizen scientists in too difficult situations during the research activities and to underline the right level of responsibilities if difficult situations occur. This requires close follow-up by the researchers. There may also be a need to secure the young citizens scientist’s safety by underlining voluntariness and providing enough support (Pučėtaitė & Norvoll, 2021). Still, as highlighted, ethics standards are not only secured by formal procedures but also the researchers’ reflexivity and responsiveness during the research processes as well as demeanour in practice (Bracken-Roche et al., 2017; Hammersley & Atkinson, 2019;  Pučėtaitė & Norvoll, 2021). Being respectful and polite; attentive to young peoples’ verbal and non- verbal expressions of consent and treating people’s information in a confidential and proper way, is crucial for conducting citizen social science in an ethically sound way.



The ten principles of CS (ECSA)
Documents – European Citizen Science Association

Mutual Learning Exercise on Citizen Science Initiatives – Policy and Practice
Mutual learning exercise – Publications Office of the EU (

Rasmussen, L. M., & Cooper, C. (2019). Citizen Science Ethics. Citizen science: theory and practice, 4(1).

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