GHANA – Ghana in collaboration with IIASA researchers, has adopted a citizen science approach to address the problem of plastic pollution in marine environments.

By doing this, Ghana has become the first country to integrate this type of data on marine plastic litter into its official monitoring and reporting processes.

Citizen science can fill data gaps by engaging the public in scientific research, expanding data collection efforts, and increasing the availability of valuable information.

This collaborative approach involves a diverse range of individuals, enhancing the comprehensiveness of datasets and accelerating data gathering.

The result is not only faster data collection but also increased community involvement, leading to a stronger awareness of important topics.

Dilek Fraisl, a researcher at IIASA, states, “Citizen science is not only about filling data gaps; it serves as a significant connection between the public, the scientific community, and policy.”

Ghana’s innovative approach involved leveraging existing citizen science data and networks to address its data gap on a national scale.

This contribution not only helps in monitoring and reporting on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also enhances Ghana’s ability to participate in global SDG monitoring and reporting efforts.

The impact was profound, going beyond mere data collection to actively shape policy decisions and promote awareness.

The country’s commitment to sustainable plastic waste management, along with the growth of its citizen science community, has paved the way for citizen science to become a powerful catalyst for positive environmental change.

Through initiatives like the International Coastal Cleanup, standardized data collection methods were adopted across various community groups and organizations.

Beach cleanups, for example, were able to more accurately target problem areas. Furthermore, the data is consolidated into the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Information Data for Education and Solutions (TIDES) database, which is the world’s largest repository of ocean trash data. This database helps in global monitoring efforts.

The case study’s ripple effect extended to the development of Ghana’s Integrated Coastal and Marine Management Policy.

Government partners gained invaluable insights into citizen science methodologies and data, ultimately leading Ghana to become the first nation to use citizen science data to report on plastic debris density under SDG 14.1.1b.

Ghana has demonstrated how citizen-generated data can inform policies and contribute to progress on global SDG monitoring.

With the 2030 deadline for achieving the United Nations’ SDGs approaching, the role of citizen science initiatives becomes increasingly crucial.

“They play a pivotal role in addressing data deficiencies and contribute to strengthening inclusive data ecosystems, informed decision-making, and concerted action,” added Fraisl.

Whether addressing issues like marine plastic litter or other indicators such as air pollution, Ghana’s experience provides valuable lessons and inspiration for countries looking to harness the power of citizen science.

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