Citizen science networks in natural history and the collective validation of biodiversity data

Esther Turnhout, Anna Lawrence, Sander Turnhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Biodiversity data are in increasing demand to inform policy and management. A substantial portion of these data is generated in citizen science networks. To ensure the quality of biodiversity data, standards and criteria for validation have been put in place. We used interviews and document analysis from the United Kingdom and The Netherlands to examine how data validation serves as a point of connection between the diverse people and practices in natural history citizen science networks. We found that rather than a unidirectional imposition of standards, validation was performed collectively. Specifically, it was enacted in ongoing circulations of biodiversity records between recorders and validators as they jointly negotiated the biodiversity that was observed and the validity of the records. These collective validation practices contributed to the citizen science character or natural history networks and tied these networks together. However, when biodiversity records were included in biodiversity-information initiatives on different policy levels and scales, the circulation of records diminished. These initiatives took on a more extractive mode of data use. Validation ceased to be collective with important consequences for the natural history networks involved and citizen science more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-539
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Amateurs
  • Biodiversity recording
  • Circulating reference
  • Data validation
  • Quality control


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