International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 565–577 | Cite as

The how and why of societal publications for citizen science projects and scientists

  • Arnold J. H. van VlietEmail author
  • Wichertje A. Bron
  • Sara Mulder
Phenology – Milwaukee 2012


In the scientific community, the importance of communication to society is often underestimated. Scientists and scientific organisations often lack the skills to organise such communication effectively. The Dutch citizen science phenology network Nature’s Calendar has been successful in communicating to the general public via numerous newspaper articles, television appearances, presentations, websites and social media. We refer to these publications as societal publications. Due to active communication to mass media, we frequently reach millions of people. This communication helped us to involve thousands of volunteers in recording the timing of phenological events like the start of flowering, leaf unfolding and bird migration, but also several health-related events like hay fever symptoms and tick bites. In this paper, we analyse and present our experiences with the Nature’s Calendar project regarding societal publications. Based on this analysis, we explain the importance of societal publications for citizen science projects and scientists in general, and we show how scientists can increase the newsworthiness of scientific information and what factors and activities can increase the chances of media paying attention to this news. We show that societal publications help phenological networks by facilitating the recruitment, retention and instruction of observers. Furthermore, they stimulate the generation of new ideas and partners that lead to an increase in knowledge, awareness and behavioural change of the general public or specific stakeholders. They make projects, and scientists involved, better known to the public and increase their credibility and authority. Societal publications can catalyse the production of new publications, thereby enforcing the previous mentioned points.


Societal publications Citizen science Phenology Media attention 



We thank all our volunteers that participated in reporting their observations to the various citizen science programmes mentioned in this paper. Furthermore, we want to thank the numerous partner organisations involved.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnold J. H. van Vliet
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Wichertje A. Bron
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sara Mulder
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Systems Analysis GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Foundation for Sustainable DevelopmentWageningenThe Netherlands

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