Identifying, reducing, and communicating uncertainty in community science: a focus on alien species

Anna F. Probert, Daniel Wegmann, Lara Volery, Tim Adriaens, Rigers Bakiu, Sandro Bertolino, Franz Essl, Eugenio Gervasini, Quentin Groom, Guillaume Latombe, Dragana Marisavljevic, John Mumford, Jan Pergl, Cristina Preda, Helen E. Roy, Riccardo Scalera, Heliana Teixeira, Elena Tricarico, Sonia Vanderhoeven, Sven Bacher

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Community science (also often referred to as citizen science) provides a unique opportunity to address questions beyond the scope of other research methods whilst simultaneously engaging communities in the scientific process. This leads to broad educational benefits, empowers people, and can increase public awareness of societally relevant issues such as the biodiversity crisis. As such, community science has become a favourable framework for researching alien species where data on the presence, absence, abundance, phenology, and impact of species is important in informing management decisions. However, uncertainties arising at different stages can limit the interpretation of data and lead to projects failing to achieve their intended outcomes. Focusing on alien species centered community science projects, we identified key research questions and the relevant uncertainties that arise during the process of developing the study design, for example, when collecting the data and during the statistical analyses. Additionally, we assessed uncertainties from a linguistic perspective, and how the communication stages among project coordinators, participants and other stakeholders can alter the way in which information may be interpreted. We discuss existing methods for reducing uncertainty and suggest further solutions to improve data reliability. Further, we make suggestions to reduce the uncertainties that emerge at each project step and provide guidance and recommendations that can be readily applied in practice. Reducing uncertainties is essential and necessary to strengthen the scientific and community outcomes of community science, which is of particular importance to ensure the success of projects aimed at detecting novel alien species and monitoring their dynamics across space and time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Invasions
Number of pages27
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29-Aug-2022

Thematic List 2020

  • Invasive species

EWI Biomedical sciences

  • B003-ecology

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