Citizen science water projects in Nepal: Participant motivations and the impacts of involvement

David W. Walker
JSPS International Research Fellow, Faculty of Design, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan; and Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands; david.walker@wur.nl

Masakazu Tani
Faculty of Design, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan; tani@design.kyushu-u.ac.jp

Narayan Gyawali
Lutheran World Relief (LWR) Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal; ngyawali@lwr.org

Prem Sagar Chapagain
Central Department of Geography, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal; ps.chapagain@gmail.com

Jeffrey C. Davids
California State University, Chico; and SmartPhones4Water (S4W), Chico, California, USA; jcdavids@csuchico.edu

Alisha Ghimire
Community Resilience and Humanitarian practitioner, Kathmandu, Nepal; ghimire.ali@gmail.com

Makhan Maharjan
Urban Environment Management Society (UEMS), Lalitpur, Nepal; maharjan.makhan@gmail.com

Binod Prasad Parajuli Practical Action, Kathmandu, Nepal;

Rajaram Prajapati
Smartphones For Water Nepal (S4W-Nepal), Lalitpur, Nepal; rajaram@smartphones4water.org

Santosh Regmi
Nepal Hydrological and Meteorological Research Center, Kathmandu, Nepal; sregmi11@yahoo.com

Rakesh Kumar Shah
Lutheran World Relief (LWR) Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal; rshah@lwr.org

Puja Shakya
Practical Action, Kathmandu, Nepal; puja.shakya@practicalaction.org.np

Surabhi Upadhyay
Smartphones For Water Nepal (S4W-Nepal), Lalitpur, Nepal; surabhi@smartphones4water.org

ABSTRACT: Citizen science is blossoming in the water sciences and benefits to the scientific community are well reported. The experiences of involved citizens are less well researched, however, particularly in the Global South. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated the participant motivations of citizen science water projects in Nepal and the benefits and negative impacts of involvement. Semi-structured interviews and questionnaires were utilised with 74 participants and 15 project organisers, mainly from 5 projects. Participant responses yielded evidence of most of the commonly reported potential benefits of involvement in citizen science, including knowledge gain, increased scientific literacy, and empowerment. Not all benefits were experienced by all participants, however, and there was evidence – albeit minimal – of negative impacts, with some participants reporting the net effect of involvement as being burdensome or disappointing. Participant motivations matched those typically observed among Global North citizen scientists; most commonly, contributing to scientific research, having the opportunity to learn, and helping the community. While this study indicated that involvement in the investigated projects was mostly beneficial, further Global South citizen scientist assessments are needed to enable benefits to be maximised, negative impacts to be avoided, and motivations to be understood for improved participant targeting and retention.

KEYWORDS: Citizen science, Global South, water resources, water quality, disaster risk reduction, participant assessment, Nepal